WD2 Semifinals: Lock Haven Rides 16-Game Win Streak
In-Game Blog: NCAA Division II Semifinals
|Thanks to a 16-game winning streak, Lock Haven senior Chelsea Borrino's career will continue this weekend in Salem, Va. (Lock Haven Athletics)|
This was the winter of Lock Haven’s discontent. Non-stop snow in Central Pennsylvania kept the Eagles inside the gym until mid-March. But the regular season waits for no team and they hit the road to open their schedule without even stepping on their own practice field once.
“There had been winters where we could get on the field before the snow came or it would give us a break, but we were inside the entire preseason this year,” said LHU coach Kristen Selvage. “Cabin fever really gets to you. You want to get outside and get beyond those four walls, but there’s nothing you can do.”
On March 23, after losing back-to-back games to Limestone and Indiana (Pa.), Lock Haven’s record sat at 2-2. This is Division II, where just four teams make the playoffs in each region, so every subsequent game became a must-win. For a real chance to make a return trip to the NCAA tournament, the Eagles would need to win every game.
So they did just that. Lock Haven will head back to Salem, Va., this weekend for the South Region Finals riding a 16-game winning streak.
The team that struggled through the Ides of March after spending the winter inside is a distant memory.
“The hardest thing we’ve ever had to do as coaches was to keep making our pre-game talks unique because it was so essential that we didn’t overlook any opponent,” Selvage said. “It was like a black cloud over us and that cloud didn’t lift until we won the conference championship. But they didn’t fear it. They didn’t let it scare them. We were amazed. Even our freshman had nerves of steel.”
Those nerves stayed solid during their run through the PSAC regular season, two wins over Mercyhurst, two wins over West Chester and most recently, a 17-6 triumph over Pfeiffer in the NCAA quarterfinals. Jessica Pandolf led the way for LHU with six goals in the victory.
Pandolf, who ranks second in D2 with 76 goals, and Chelsea Borrino (105 points, fifth in Division II), again have the offense humming, but it is Lock Haven’s third-ranked defense that has steadied the ship. It’s a unit, led by Melinda Wojt, Christina Hawkins and Kelly Close in front of goalie Chrissy Baffuto in which every member plays an integral role. The Eagles have not allowed an opponent to reach double-digits since the streak began.
Before each game, the Eagles go around the room asking each other who they play for. They’ll give a teammate and a reason. For the past five games, the answers have been unanimous every time. The Eagles are playing to extend the careers of their two seniors, Borrino and defensive midfielder Lindsay Walbrandt.
Thanks to the recent run, the seniors are guaranteed one more college weekend. The Final Four will be held concurrently with the D2 softball championship in Salem and the event offers an olympic-like atmosphere with plenty of opportunities for distractions.
“It’s kind of like the Super Bowl,” Selvage said. “And I remember listening to one of the [Super Bowl] coaches. He said, ‘The players have a choice of soaking it up, embracing the moment and doing all the activities. Or they have the option of focusing on the game.’ Let’s face it. If they don’t win it all, the experience doesn’t mean as much. They’re fully focused on the a game ahead. They can soak it all in when it’s over.”
They were patient all winter, what’s another couple of days?
Saturday in Salem, Va.
NCAA South Region Finals
No. 4 Lindenwood (15-3) vs. No. 2 Lock Haven (18-2), 11 a.m.
For the second consecutive game, Lock Haven will get a look at a team that it hasn’t seen this year. That might be a good thing for those watching. A lack of familiarity tends to force both teams to play to their strengths.
“When you go up against an opponent you haven’t seen before, everyone plays their best game because you don’t know what to expect,” Selvage said.
Of course, Lindenwood just showed what it is capable of the second time around. Just one week after losing at Limestone by eight goals, the Lions returned to Gaffney, S.C., and stunned the top-seeded Saints, 14-8. The Lions scored the first four goals of the game and never trailed, thanks to a pair of three-goal runs to bookend the second half. Jordyn Constance scored four goals and two assists and also scooped up six ground balls for the Lions, who dominated that category 32-18.
The victory means another flight to the Southeast for Lindenwood, which is the first team from the Central Time Zone to reach the NCAA tournament. That might be worth noting, as this game is slated to kick off at 11 a.m. Eastern Time. It will be the third PSAC opponent for Lindenwood, which defeated IUP and Slippery Rock in early March. But as Lock Haven continued to prove, it’s much more difficult to defeat a Pennsylvania team in May than it is in March.
NCAA North Region Finals
No. 2 LIU Post (18-1) vs. No. 1 Adelphi (20-0), 2 p.m.
The nightcap brings another chapter in Division II’s most storied rivalry. It will be tough for these teams to top what happened last season, when LIU Post rallied for a 7-6 victory in the final seconds. It’s a result Adelphi still thinks about from time to time.
“We haven’t really worried about any other team,” said AU senior Devan Crimi.
Adelphi’s Camille Rosellini followed Jackie Sileo everywhere except the locker room with a faceguard for more than 59 minutes, but the LIU star broke free and scored the winning goal with 5.6 seconds remaining. In the immediate aftermath, Sileo called all that running “fun.” It's a loss that has stuck with Adelphi, which has not lost since.
“For the first couple of months it was hard,” Crimi said. “We were sick of Post. We thought we had it, but unfortunately it got taken away from us. We explained it to the freshman, and to see them so affected about how we were affected, that’s what’s been driving us. We want revenge. We want to take back what should have been ours.”
This should again be a good one. Adelphi ranks No. 1 in Division II in defense, while LIU Post ranks No. 2. Adelphi ranks No. 1 in offense and LIU is No. 6. And this is the eighth game for LIU against the Northeast-10, taking away any advantage that AU’s strength of schedule may have provided. It will also be a matchup between Division II’s top two seniors, Sileo and Crimi, former Long Island travel teammates who rank No. 1 and No. 2 in points.
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