NCAA Division II Women's Lacrosse Notebook: Uncharted Waters for Dolphins
by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com
Midfielder Rebekah Elmer is one of eight seniors who will help transition Le Moyne from Division I to Division II this year. The Dolphins are ranked No. 6 by the IWLCA.
© Greg Wall
There’s a newcomer to this season’s top 10 that wasn’t anywhere close to a national ranking last year. Le Moyne, No. 6 in the latest IWLCA Division II poll, went 9-6 last season and didn’t qualify for the postseason. Of course, that was in Division I.
Four years ago, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) dropped all associate programs, forcing Le Moyne’s women’s lacrosse and baseball teams to play as independents. After a few years playing national schedules, a consulting firm was brought in and the decision was made to move the teams to Division II and the Northeast 10, where the rest of Le Moyne’s squads play.
The Dolphins played teams like Stanford, La Salle and Florida last year, but the early season ranking was unexpected.
“We were surprised,” said coach Beth Hewitt. “We haven’t proven anything to anyone, so we don’t really follow those that closely. Obviously it’s what we’re striving for, but I care more about finishing there than starting there.”
Le Moyne was picked to finish second in the Northeast 10, behind Adelphi, a team that proves Division II isn’t always a downgrade.
“Everyone is always 'Oh Division I vs. Division II,’” Hewitt said. “It’s not. Everyone thinks Northwestern, but we were a smaller school playing in Division I and we held our own. I think there’s a lot of teams that could do that.”
Hewitt looks at the move as a benefit, especially because of the NE-10 affiliation, the rivalries and potential automatic NCAA bid that come with it.
The Dolphins open the season Friday against East Stroudsberg and then hit the road for three straight road games, including a spring break trip to Florida, before hosting Adelphi on April 23.
Said Hewitt: “We know we’re the Division I team moving to Division II. We know there will be a target on our backs. We don’t feel like we’ve earned anything yet. That’s what this season will be about. Earning our way into Division II.”
Limestone moves up
The deja vu Limestone will feel this weekend might get a little eerie. After starting off the season with two wins over local opponents, the schedule got scarier this week with two games against top-10 teams. Both from the PSAC. Both out of Erie, Pa.
The Saints (3-0) backed up their No. 4 ranking with a 12-9 win over No. 7 Mercyhurst on Thursday. Ninth-ranked Gannon, which has opened up with two wins over Conference Carolinas opponents, comes to town Saturday.
After crushing conference foes Erskine and St. Andrews Presbyterian by a combined score of 39-4 to start the season, Limestone had to work a little harder against Mercyhurst. Sophomore Chelsea Treat led the way for the Saints, who led 6-1 at halftime, with five points. The Saints held on to win 12-9.
After Gannon, Limestone continues its quest to conquer Pennsylvania with games against Shippensburg and No. 5 West Chester.
How good is Adelphi? The two-time defending NCAA champion Panthers defeated Rollins 21-9 in their season opener last week. For some perspective, the U.S. U19 national team, which is made up mostly of future, high-level Division I players and defeated Division I Jacksonville, beat Rollins 12-8. Rollins has been no slouch this spring, winning its three other games by a combined score of 64-10.
Furthering Adelphi’s chances for a three-peat are some high profile newcomers, including freshman attacker Devan Crimi, who had four points against Rollins en route to being named Northeast 10 Rookie of the Week, and sophomore defender Kate Ciaci, who transferred from Florida and was a two-time All-American at Northport High School on Long Island.
The Panthers host Philadelphia next weekend, then face the first real test of the season at Limestone on March 23. The non-league schedule also includes road games against local top 10 schools Dowling and C.W. Post. Post is the only team to beat Adelphi since 2007.
Until proven otherwise Adelphi, which was voted No. 1 unanimously in the latest IWLCA poll, remains the heavy favorite, and the speculative question becomes not how well they will do in Division II, but rather how well they would do in Division I.
Post looking to threaten
Two-time Division II champion C.W. Post handed Adelphi its most recent loss, 21-16 late last season. But three weeks later, the Pioneers were eliminated by Adelphi in the NCAA semifinals.
According to the pollsters, Post should again be Adelphi’s top rival. The Pioneers are second in the latest IWLCA poll and were again picked to win the ECC. Post also has the early favorites for the individual awards, with junior Ashley Olsen was named Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and junior Chelsea Donaldson the Preaseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Post opens its 2011 schedule at home Wednesday against Georgian Court. The Pioneers will host Adelphi on April 22 and have a good lead-in with non-league games at Stonehill and home against West Chester the week before.