April 4, 2013

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WD3 Notebook: Fredonia Headed Home to Start Stretch Run

by Mark Macyk LaxMagazine.com

Fredonia's Rachael Reinis (21 points) is part of what Blue Devils coach Chris Case calls a "well-rounded" team. Fredonia is off to a hot start, with most wins coming on the road.
© Fredonia/Lesley Cerniglia

When looking over the best Division III women's teams in the Empire State, the forecast is once again mostly sunny. One year after putting three teams in the NCAA tournament, the SUNYAC is looking even more competitive this season.

Cortland (8-1) has won 14 straight conference titles and hasn’t lost a SUNYAC game since 2009. The Red Dragons have NCAA title aspirations, but look as if they could finally lose a conference game this season. Cortland’s still great, it’s just that everyone else is really good, too.

Geneseo (5-2) is currently ranked No. 19 in the country. Two weeks ago, Oneonta (5-5) again knocked off Hamilton in what is becoming a real central New York rivalry. Brockport (6-2) is receiving votes in the latest IWLCA coaches' poll and has already defeated Oneonta. Buffalo State (6-3) is strong again, one year after winning an NCAA tournament game in its first appearance.

But the team with best record in the conference, tied with Middlebury for the fourth-best record in Division III, is Fredonia (8-0). After defeating Elmira 10-5 on Tuesday the Blue Devils have broken their record for most wins to start the season, set in 2011.

“It’s hard to complain when you’re 8-0,” Fredonia coach Chris Case said. “The team has gotten off to a good start, no question. We’ve been working extremely hard to get back to where we were last year. I think our girls found that confidence that you need to win tight games. They’re excited by where they’re at.”

It’s been an impressive run, against top teams. Three of Fredonia’s opponents were in Lacrosse Magazine’s preseason Top 20 and four of its eight wins have come by three goals or less. Even more impressive is the hot start has come with Fredonia almost entirely on the road. The Blue Devils opened the season at home on with a 7-5 victory over Wooster — still Wooster’s only loss — and they haven’t played a home game since. Seven straight wins, all away from their campus, near the shores of Lake Erie.

When the Blue Devils host SUNYAC foe New Paltz on Saturday, it will be their first home game since March 9.

“We finally get to be home for a couple of days and not travel,” Case said. “I think the girls are excited to come back and play in front of our student body.”

The seven-game road swing included a Spring Break trip through Southern California during which Fredonia defeated Redlands, Chapman and Occidental, the SCIAC’s three best teams. Redlands and Oxy each reached the NCAA tournament last year.

That trip came a week after a 14-13 overtime victory over St. John Fisher, returning the favor from last year’s NCAA tournament, when the Cardinals knocked Fredonia out with a one-goal, overtime victory in the first round. 

But now is where the test truly begins. It's the SUNYAC season. The league has expanded its tournmament to include five teams this year — Oneonta had its best season ever last year and still sat out the proceedings — but that will still leave some talented teams sitting home on April 30.

“There’s a lot of good lacrosse in New York,” Case said. “I think anyone in our conference and contend with and beat any of the other schools. It makes the conference exciting.”

What could help Fredonia in its upcoming conference quest is its defense. Despite playing such a tough schedule, Fredonia ranked 33rd in Division III in goals against and goalie Casey Chiesa ranks 40th in in save percentage. Chiesa made a big save off a free position in the closing seconds of the victory over St. John Fisher, then followed that up with a save off the rebound.

“She really anchors our defense,” Case said.

Chiesa ranks second on the team with 27 ground balls and fourth with 10 caused turnovers. The defense as a whole is strong for Fredonia, which lost just one starter from last year’s unit (of course, that starter was Megan Mietelski, Fredonia's first-ever All-American). Defenders Chelsea Maderer, Mary Bruton and Jenna Cuddeback all have double-digit ground balls and have all caused at least seven turnovers. Up front Marissa Cussins has 30 goals and five assists and Katie Kleine has 20 goals and 10 assists. Rachael Reinis adds 15 goals and six assists.

“We’re trying to make sure we’re well-rounded,” Case said. “At this level you need to make sure you have several options.”

Even if they don’t win the league, the Blue Devils will have plenty of options to boost their NCAA tournament candidacy. Fredonia faces No. 19 Geneseo on Tuesday. It will be the Blue Devils third-straight home game. Then it’s back on the road, off to Oneonta.

Game of Last Week

Williams 8, No. 19 RPI 7 (2OT)

Williams (7-3) has quietly had a very solid season. The Ephs went to Maine earlier this week and lost 11-10 at Bates and 9-6 at Bowdoin. The win over RPI could pay dividends going forward for Williams, which ends its season with seven-straight ranked opponents.

Rebecca McGovern won the game by scoring one minute into the sudden death overtime period. Williams, which trailed 5-3 at halftime, held a 7-6 lead late in the second half but RPI’s Shannon Maguire evened it at seven with five minutes remaining.

RPI’s Alissa Peterson led all players with four goals. Rebecca Bell had three goals for Williams and McGovern added two goals and one assist. Ali Pitch made 10 saves for Williams. Allie Arnal made 11 saves for RPI (6-2).

Things get no easier for the Ephs, who host No. 16 Tufts on Saturday. Then it’s Colby, Hamilton, Amherst, Middlebury, and, if they can use the RPI win as a springboard, maybe the NESCAC Tournament.

RPI continues its quest to win the wide-open Liberty League on Friday against Skidmore.

Looking Ahead

No. 7 TCNJ at No. 8 Franklin & Marshall, Saturday

Two of the most successful Division III women's programs of all-time square off for what should be one of April’s best non-conference showdowns.

Franklin & Marshall has played great all season but a solid effort or win would establish the Dips as firmly back in national title picture. It would also give F&M confidence heading into the thick of the Centennial Conference season, as Gettysburg has already defeated TCNJ. F&M beat TCNJ 16-12 last April, a victory that made the subsequent cancellation of the season all the more painful.

A win would be TCNJ’s best so far this season as well. It would also help the Lions put the two-game, mid-March losing streak, suffered against Cortland and Gettysburg, further behind them.

TCNJ (8-2) will get another Top 10 shot next week against Salisbury. F&M (7-2) faces Gettysburg on April 24.

Game Balls

Allison Bonanno, Roanoke: Bonanno dished out a program- and ODAC-record 12 assists as Roanoke rocked Randolph-Macon 21-11 on Saturday. The junior from Ridgewood, N.J., also had three goals in the victory, and as of Sunday ranks second in Division III in assists. Bonanno followed that up with nine assists in Wednesday’s win over Sweet Briar, breaking Roanoke’s single-season record in the process.

Brigid Hurley, St. Lawrence: Hurley, a senior from Penfield, N.Y., scored six goals in St. Lawrence’s 16-13 victory over Clarkson on Tuesday in Liberty League play. The big day comes on the heels of a five-goal, one-assist performance in Saturday’s win over Skidmore. In Friday’s 7-6, overtime loss to No. 19 RPI, Hurley provided four of the Saints’ six goals and she currently leads St. Lawrence (5-4) with 28 goals in nine games.

Amy MacDonald, Plymouth State: MacDonald had two assists and five goals, including the tying goal in regulation and the game-winner in the fourth overtime, as Plymouth State rallied past Connecticut College, 16-15, on Tuesday. The Panthers scored six unanswered goals in the final 12 minutes of regulation to erase a 15-9 deficit. Earlier in the week, MacDonald, a sophomore from Hull, Mass., led the Plymouth State (4-1) with four goals and two assists in an 18-8 victory over Castleton. The Panthers’ only loss so far came to 2012 NCAA tournament team, Springfield, by one goal.

Miscellaneous

Eight undefeated teams remain in Division III. Trinity (7-0), Salisbury (8-0), Middlebury (8-0), Colby (7-0) and Susquehanna (10-0) all rank in the Top 12. Fredonia (8-0) is receiving votes in the latest coaches' poll. The two other teams, Bridgewater State (7-0) and Denison (7-0), won’t crack the rankings, but are names to know as they’ll both be looking to make a return to the NCAA tournament this year... There’s one fewer undefeated team in the country thanks to Franklin & Marshall. The Dips (7-2) handed Washington College (8-1) its first loss of the season, 12-5, on Saturday.

Mark Macyk has covered NCAA Division II and III women’s lacrosse for Lacrosse Magazine since 2011. He can be contacted at markmacyk@gmail.com.


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