Breaking Down the WD2 Bracket: Newcomers Welcome
|The larger bracket helped teams like Lindenwood (Mo.) get in, while favorites like Adelphi and Limestone still headline. (Don Adams Jr.)|
There's one thing that can't be argued about with regards to Division II’s eight-team format: it sure beats the six-team tournament from two years ago. The extra spot in each region opened the door tournament newcomers Lindenwood and Saint Anselm this time around.
The Lions, who reached the dance in their first year of NCAA eligibility, are the first Division II from outside the Eastern Time Zone to make it. Saint Anselm had a great season in its first season under coach Andrea Cofrin, and gives the NE-10 three tournament teams for the second year in a row.
But ask a murderous row of left-behind programs from Syracuse to South Florida to Denver and everywhere in between, and it’s once again clear that eight is not enough in Division II.
Not that this year’s bracket won’t produce its share of drama. There’s a chance for Adelphi vs. LIU Post Redux in the North Region final - that is if the Pioneers can hold off upstart New Haven in Round 1. As for potential finals in the South, Lock Haven came within four goals of Limestone the first time around, but played the Saints in their third game of the seaosn, after a brutal Pennsylvnia winter, on a March contest that was Limestone’s 10th game of the year.
Three of the four first round games are rematches. Depending on how things shake out, the Division II championship game on May 18 in Salem, Va., could be also be a rematch of the 2013 championship (LIU Post vs. Limestone), 2011 championship (Adelphi vs. Limestone), 2009 championship (Adelphi vs. Lock Haven) or, maybe, a showdown between two teams that have never met.
The championship will be decided on May 18 in Salem, Va. Before that, it's time to analyze the field. Here is the bracket breakdown.
The Top Seeds
In case you haven’t heard: Adelphi is back. The Panthers roared through their season with a perfect 19-0 record and after a two-goal victory over Lindenwood in their second contest of the season, did not win a game by fewer than six goals the rest of the season. The tournament will mark the final hurrah for Panthers’ star Devan Crimi, who won an NCAA championship as a freshman, and enters the dance second in Division II in points (113).
The Saints are the undisputed Queens of the South. They played every other South Region playoff team and finished 4-0 against them, including a pair of wins of Pfeiffer. Their first round foe should be fresh in their minds, Limestone beat Lindenwood, 15-7, on Saturday. The Saints offense is led by the double-threat tandem of scoring machine Katie Farrell (73 goals) and assist maven Sarah Oor (63 assists).
Last Team In
Saint Anselm could have crashed the party last year had it won even half of the close games it lost. This season followed a similar script, the Hawks went 0-3 in two-goal games, but they won when it counted, punching their ticket when they beat Stonehill by three goals late in the regular season. Andrea Cofrin guided the team to a record-setting season in her first year on the job. If that first year is going to last beyond this weekend it would mean shocking Adelphi.
First Team Out
The Dolphins fate was sealed when Stonehill eliminated them in the first round of the NE-10 tournament, but with a resume that included wins over Saint Anselm and Mercyhurst, they certainly gave the committee plenty to think about. It is the first time since Le Moyne moved to Division II in 2011 that the Dolphins are sitting out the NCAA tournament.
Last year it was PSAC champion West Chester sitting at home, this year it's ECC champion Dowling, which just handed LIU Post its first loss in two years. But even with that victory, no one expected Dowling's name to be called on Selection Sunday, not with losses to Stonehill and Philadelphia University on its resume. Of course, a 16-team tournament would have sent all three of those teams and made the North Region playoffs pretty crazy.
Best First-Round Game
New Haven at LIU Post
New Haven held a two-goal lead with less than three minutes to go when these teams met two weeks ago, but LIU Post rallied and won it when Jackie Sileo connected with Stefani Vagelatos with with 27 seconds remaining in regulation. Now the Chargers get another shot at the two-time defending NCAA champions, who are coming off their first loss in two years.
Seeded Too High
Can’t argue with anything in the South Region. Limestone beat all three other teams, Lock Haven won the mighty PSAC, and Pfeiffer defeated Lindenwood. Line them up 1, 2, 3, 4 and watch them go.
Seeded Too Low
The same goes for the North. LIU Post would have had a case for the top spot, had it not been upset by Dowling on Saturday. Adelphi is the clear No. 1. LIU Post beat New Haven, which beat Saint Anselm and so, by the law of transitivity, it all adds up.
Pfeiffer vs. Lock Haven
After what happened the last time they played, New Haven over LIU Post can’t really be considered an upset. So what about this mysterious South Region semifinal? It’s the only first round matchup that isn’t a rematch of a regular season game. Pfeiffer handled its two PSAC opponents, Shippensburg and Bloomsburg, and showed it can go toe-to-toe with the best from north of the Mason-Dixon line, with a win over Dowling and a close game against New Haven. Still, it would tough to see mighty Lock Haven flinching on its home field after running through the PSAC. And it’s a lot tougher to beat a Pennsylvania team in May than it is in March. Then again, that’s why they call it an upset.
Best Potential Matchup
LIU Post vs. Adelphi (North Region Finals)
These two local rivals took their regular season matchup off the schedule last year, but still managed to get together for a classic showdown in the North Region finals. Adelphi had a chance to win late, but LIU Post miraculously rallied to win, 7-6, on a goal from Jackie Sileo in the final seconds. Last season, Adelphi came in with a perfect game plan and LIU still won it. But Adelphi is definitely even better than it was last season.
Don't Be Surprised If...
The last two years turn out to be a blip on an otherwise uninterrupted string of Adelphi dominance. Rob Grella turned the Panthers back into a powerhouse in less then three years on the job, and his first recruiting classes still have a few years left to do work in Garden City. LIU Post, Limestone, Lock Haven and the rest loom as potential stoppers, but the Panthers have looked like world beaters all year. If they win the crown this season, it could be the start of another dynasty.
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