May 3, 2012

Lochary: Previewing NCAA WD1 Play-In Games

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com

Before Selection Sunday, six teams will play each other in three play-in games for a bid to the NCAA tournament. Let's take a look at the match-ups to see who will still be dancing next week.

Navy (Patriot League) at Oregon (Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)

Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year Jasmine DePompeo drives the Mids' powerful attack 2,800 miles west from Annapolis, Md., to Eugene, Ore., for an NCAA Play-In contest.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

When: Saturday, 1 p.m. PST

How They Got There

Navy: The Mids raced to their third straight Patriot League title with an 18-11 win over Holy Cross and a perfect 6-0 conference record. Junior Kathy Young and sophomore Aimee Gennaro each scored seven goals in the league title game, setting a Patriot League record. Young now has 131 career goals and is the second leading goal scorer in Navy history.

Oregon: The Ducks picked a good time to win their first MPSF regular season title and first MPSF tournament crown – it's the first year that the westernmost conference in Division I had an automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament. Oregon had a perfect in-conference record and defeated seven-time MPSF champ Stanford, 13-10, in the title game. Senior Jana Drummond became the Ducks' all-time goal leader earlier in the season, but sophomore Nikki Puszcz had a hat trick in the win over the Cardinal and leads the 2012 stats with 37 goals.

Player to Watch: Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year Jasmine DePompeo is the engine of the Mids' powerful attack (15.21 goals per game). She has 44 assists in the 2012 season, and 93 in her career. The junior attacker is currently third on Navy's career assist list; she needs three to move in to second place and four to move into first place.

X Factor: Road fatigue. Annapolis, Md. is about 2,800 miles from Eugene, Oregon. Thanks to the (relative) geographic compactness of the Patriot League, Navy doesn't have too many long trips on its schedule. The Mids are 17-2, but the two losses were away games. Losing to Northwestern at Lakeside Field is understandable, but an 11-10 loss to second-year program High Point in the season opener is less so.

Prediction: Navy 12, Oregon 10. The Ducks' defense (9.44 goals per game) is good but Navy's only been held to single digits three times this season. Oregon sophomore goalie Caroline Federighi has a nice save percentage (.496) but she'd need a career day to hold of DePompeo, Young and friends.

Monmouth (Northeastern Conference) at Towson (Colonial Athletic Association)

When: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST

How They Got There

Monmouth: The Hawks defeated No. 3 seeded Mount St. Mary's in the NEC tournament, 11-3. Monmouth's overall GAA is 10.58, but the Hawks have stepped it up defensively as the season has progressed, allowing 6 goals or less in their last four games. Monmouth had to beat defending NEC champ Quinnipiac to get to the championship game, and had lost a 13-8 game to the Bobcats on April 1. The difference was draw controls. In the regular season game, Quinnipiac led 15-7 in draws; in the conference tournament, it was Monmouth, 9-6. Senior attacker Sam Lillo had 6 draw controls in the conference semifinal and two more in the championship game. Lillo leads the Hawks in draw controls (40) and goals (41).

Towson: The Tigers won three one-goal games in a row to secure the top seed in the CAA tournament, and then to win the title. Towson beat James Madison, 10-9 in double overtime, to become regular-season champs and win the right to host the tournament. The Tigers then staved off a Drexel comeback to win the semifinal, 11-10, and rallied to defeat the Dukes again in the conference final, 8-7. The CAA title is Towson's first since 2009, and the victory set a program record for wins. The Tigers are now 8-1 in one-goal games.

Player to Watch: Monmouth freshman goalie Katie Donohoe came up big in the NEC tournament. The Canadian U19 team keeper had 9 saves in the semifinal and 11 in the championship. She was named tournament MVP.

X Factor: Injuries. Towson defender Alexa Demski tore her ALC during the regular-season game versus James Madison, although the Tigers' unit has adapted well in her absence.

Prediction: Towson 10, Monmouth 9. The Tigers have a 15-3 record, and two of those losses are to Maryland and Syracuse. That's pretty elite company.

Canisius (Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference) at UMass (Atlantic 10 Conference)

When: Sunday, 11:30 a.m. EST

How They Got There

Canisius: The Golden Griffs have now won two straight MAAC titles; the 2011 crown was the program's first ever. Both of them came over Fairfield, most recently in a 15-11 win led by junior Morgan Leonard's 4 goals and 1 assist. Leonard's usually a defensively minded midfielder, who leads the team in ground balls (45) and caused turnovers (40), but when she shoots, she's good at it. She was named championship MVP for her performance against the Stags, which avenged a regular-season OT loss. It's been a long road to the play-in game for the Golden Griffs, who started their season 2-5.

UMass: The Minutemen needed OT to beat Richmond in the regular season, but had an easier time of it in the A10 tournament with a 14-9 win over the Spiders. Junior attacker Cori Murray led UMass with 5 goals and 1 assist. The Minutemen are currently 18-1, with the one loss coming to Northwestern.

Player to Watch: Katie Ferris is within striking distance of becoming the first UMass player and the first A10 player to score 100 points in a season. She had a goal and an assist in the A10 final, lifting her to 95 points for the year, a new league single-season points record.

X Factor: Draw control. These same two teams met in the play-in game last year and UMass worked Canisius, 17-9 on draws and won 16-8. Nina Sarcona led the Minutemen with 4 draw controls in that game and has an incredible 101 draw controls already this season. Megan Oosting leads the Golden Griffs with 69 draw controls.

Prediction: UMass 13, Canisius 11. The Golden Griffs' defense (10.68 goals per game) likely doesn't have an answer for the Minutemen's offense, which averages 16.16 goals per game and has six players with 30 or more goals, led by Ferris (57g).


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