April 25, 2013

WD3 Notebook: Stevenson Can Work or Play at Final Four

by Mark Macyk LaxMagazine.com

Stevenson is the team to beat in the MAC Commonwealth Conference. It's a longer road to the Division III women's final four, which Stevenson hosts this year.
© SKM Photography

The Stevenson women's lacrosse team is going to the final four this year — one way or another.

"I told them they have to stay either way," said Stevenson coach Kathy Railey. "They have every intention of not working it, but playing in it."

A year ago, both ideas seemed far fetched. One, because the tournament was scheduled to be hosted by Montclair St., so it would have been weird for the Mustangs to work it. But also because the Mustangs were a young team, coming off a 9-7 season, and had never reached the NCAA tournament.

"We had a scrimmage to open the season and I was worried," Railey said. "We had a lot of talent, but it was raw, to say the least... If you had told me we would have 13 wins before the middle of April, I'd have thought you were pulling my leg."

But at the end of April a couple of things are clear: Stevenson's 3,500-seat Mustang Stadium and its women's lacrosse team, ranked No. 17 in the latest IWLCA poll, will have an on-field impact in the NCAA tournament.

The Mustangs lost to No. 2 Salisbury in the their first game of the season and haven't lost since, racking up 14 straight wins, including some against recent NCAA tournament participants Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Occidental and — the biggest win so far — 13-8 over two-time defending MAC Commonwealth Conference champion No. 18 Messiah.

The winning streak established the Mustangs as a team to watch on the national stage. The win over Messiah confirmed them as the MAC's team to beat.

Maybe most impressive about the Mustangs' meteoric rise is how young they are. Four freshman play significant minutes and at the team's core are three impact sophomores: Meg Gill, Amanda LeGar and Kathryn Merrick. Juniors Leah Warner (42 goals, 24 assists) and Marissa Meiklejohn (41 goals, 16 assist) have both topped the 40-goal barrier.

Fitting for a school about to be thrust into the national spotlight, the Mustangs have seen the full support of their university president, Dr. Kevin J. Manning, who has visited with the team before several games this season.

"He doesn't just come in and say good luck," Railey said. "The entire team and Dr. Manning work together on confidence building and what it means to really think about winning the game. I'm not gonna give away any of my secrets, but it's a lot of pre-thought before we even go on the field. Not thinking about how we're gonna win, just the fact that we are."

So when they fell behind 3-0 and 4-1 to early to Messiah, there was no panic. Stevenson had visualized the situation already. Railey called a timeout. The Mustangs went a 10-1 run and the league had a new top team.

"There was never any doubt that we were gonna win that game," Railey said. "We used the timeout and in the blink of an eye we were on top."

Of the game, and the Commonwealth Conference. It's a perch the Mustangs don't plan on leaving soon.

Game of Last Week

No. 5 Gettysburg 12, No. 6 Franklin & Marshall 11

Lindsey Robinson scored the game-winner off an assist from Kelsey Markiewicz to break an 11-all tie and give Gettysburg the Centennial regular-season crown. The game featured eight ties, but Gettysburg led 10-7 midway through the second half before Franklin & Marshall scored four of the next five goals to tie it at 11.

Gettysburg's Loren Pruitt led all players with five goals and Amanda Borucki added four goals. Caroline Krohn had three goals and five assists to lead F&M and Kelsey Hoffman made 14 saves in the loss.

What it means for Gettysburg: A Centennial Conference regular season title and the right to host the final two rounds of next week's conference tournament, which the Bullets hosted and won last year. It is also the eighth straight win for the Bullets (15-1), who have only lost to Middlebury.

What it means for F&M: The Diplomats will enter the Centennial Conference tournament as No. 2 seeds and have to travel across the Susquehanna to Gettysburg for the final four. The one-goal result proves the Dips (12-3), who have won seven straight, are still on par with Gettysburg.

Up next: Gettysburg wraps up league play on Sunday at Bryn Mawr. F&M plays at Dickinson the same day. Both will host first-round Centennial tournament games on Wednesday and both will surely host first-round NCAA tournament games later in the month.

Looking Ahead

NESCAC Tournament Begins Saturday

No. 8 Tufts at No. 1 Trinity, Noon
No. 7 Bates at No. 2 Middlebury, Noon
No. 6 Hamilton at No. 3 Bowdoin, Noon
No. 5 Amherst at No. 4 Colby, Noon

The above rankings are what the teams are ranked within the NESCAC, but last week seven of these teams were also ranked in the IWLCA Top 20.

Tufts is the toughest eighth seed you'll find in any conference, but Trinity handled the Jumbos 13-4 the first time around. Middlebury easily handled Bates 20-4 on the first game of the season.

The other two first-round games offer a bit more intrigue. Colby beat Amherst 10-7 on the first day of the season, way back on March 9 and last year beat the Lord Jeffs by one in the regular season. When Hamilton and Bowdoin met on March 22, the Polar Bears won 10-9 in overtime. Hamilton shocked Colby in the first round of last year's NESCACs and, with the Continentals likely needing the NESCAC's AQ to reach the NCAA tournament, once again represents a dangerous underdog.

Game Balls

Sarah Brown, Brockport: Brown had a goal and two assists during Brockport's 13-8 victory over previously-unbeaten No. 13 Fredonia on Tuesday. The victory guarantees a spot in the SUNYAC tournament for the Golden Eagles. Brown, a senior out of West Genesee (N.Y.) High, now has 50 assists this season, tying Brockport's program record.

Emma Ehler, Susquehanna: Ehler, a junior from Chatham, N.J., had six goals and three assists as No. 11 Susquehanna scored its biggest win of the season, 15-10 at Catholic on Saturday. The victory clinches a Landmark Conference regular-season championship and guarantees the Crusaders the No. 1 seed in the upcoming league tournament. CUA defeated SU twice last season and reached the NCAA tournament while Susquehanna did not. The Landmark champion does not receive an automatic NCAA tournament bid, but, after Saturday's victory, it would seem impossible to deny SU a Pool B bid this year.

Rachel Scofield, RPI: Scofield had four goals and four assists as the Engineers steamed past RIT 19-8 on Friday. The junior from Albany, N.Y., followed that up with two goals and two assists in a win over Rochester on Saturday. RPI has won five straight and has two road games remaining in a perfect Liberty League season.

Miscellaneous

Swarthmore's Karen Borbee became just the second coach in school history to reach the 200-win milestone in Saturday's 13-10 Centennial Conference victory over Dickinson. The National Lacrosse Hall of Fame member, and 1983 NCAA Tournament MVP with Delaware, has the Garnet in the hunt for a Centennial Conference playoff spot ... Plenty of conference tournaments, from the CAC to the NESCAC, are on the slate for this weekend. For updated results check out the DIII Clearinghouse.

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.


comments powered by Disqus