WD3 Bracket Breakdown: Expect Early-Round Surprises
by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com
|Christopher Newport has a chance
to earn its first NCAA win against another Southern school,
Sewanee, which is making its first post-season tournament
© Christopher Newport
The bracket predicts a final four redux with Salisbury, Middlebury, Trinity and Cortland all earning top seeds, but there should still be plenty of surprises in the first week NCAA Division III women's lacrosse tournament.
Five teams — Augustana, Geneseo, Keuka, Lasell and Sewanee — will be dancing for the first time, and a couple have a chance to pull upsets. The first weekend should also have a final four feel to it. TCNJ and Colby are on a path to meet in the second round, as are York and Franklin & Marshall. Intriguing quarterfinal pairings include Middlebury-Gettysburg and Cortland-Bowdoin.
It's time to analyze the field. Here's the bracket breakdown.
The Top Seed
The NCAA tournament field reads a lot like a list of Salisbury's victims. Washington & Lee, Cortland, Franklin & Marshall, TCNJ, York and Christopher Newport all reached the NCAA tournament, despite falling to the Sea Gulls during the regular season. Those teams have plenty of company. Salisbury has lost just one of its last 41 games, but that was the game that counted the most — the 2012 NCAA championship game to Trinity. Trinity is also undefeated, but the Sea Gulls look as good as ever this year, boasting the tournament's fourth-highest scoring offense and second-stingiest defense.
Last Team In
Those in the Empire State know Geneseo as the SUNY system's top liberal arts school. This year the Knights proved they're also one of the SUNY system's best lacrosse teams. Geneseo punched its NCAA ticket with a 10-3 victory over Fredonia in the SUNYAC semifinals. Four of the Black Knights' five losses came to Top 20 teams.
First Team Out
The final four will come to Stevenson this year, but the Mustangs will miss out. Elizabethtown knocked off Stevenson 14-12 in the MAC Commonwealth title game, taking the automatic bid and leaving the Mustangs on the outside looking in.
For the second season in a row Ithaca is sitting out the NCAA tournament because of a loss to St. John Fisher in the Empire 8 championship game. Once again, Ithaca's record might have been good enough to get in anyway. The Bombers beat Geneseo and St. John Fisher during the regular season, but that almost-upset against Cortland in March probably stings a little more now.
Best First-Round Game
Sewanee at Christopher Newport
The first round will become a Southern Comfort Zone when these two teams from below the Mason-Dixon Line meet in Newport News, Va. Despite being two of the South's best, these two squads have only met twice before, with CNU winning the most recent matchup 19-17 back in 2009. Either way the winner will result in a good story. It will either be Christopher Newport finally getting an NCAA win or Sewanee springing an upset in its first appearance.
Seeded Too High
Springfield beat Babson twice this year and Babson beat Endicott, but Springfield will head to Endicott for its first round game. It would have made sense just to flip the site of this first round matchup between experienced NCAA tournament foes.
Seeded Too Low
St. John Fisher
The Cardinals just beat Ithaca and are the only Top 20 team going on the road for its first round game. Division III likes to pair first round opponents close to home (and for the purposes of this Augustana in Illinois is close to Redlands in California) but with so many teams making the tourney, the Cardinals could have been playing at home in Round 1, instead of headed across the New York Thruway to face RPI.
Geneseo at Susquehanna
Finally, we'll also be able to find out if a Knight is tougher than a Crusader. Susquehanna hasn't lost all season, but the Crusaders haven't played a squad as tough as Geneseo. Geneseo played six Top 20 teams this year and has a win over an NCAA tournament team, St. John Fisher, boosting its resumé.
Best Potential Matchup
Colby vs. TCNJ (Second Round)
This is a Final Four caliber game on the first Saturday of the tournament. Both of these teams could get hot and reach Stevenson, but one will head home in Round two. Both teams are battle-tested and both coaches have won NCAA championships. It won't get any easier for the winner. Trinity likely looms in the quarterfinals.
Three Players to Watch
Katie Bollhorst, Salisbury, Sr. A
It will be the final NCAA tournament for the two-time CAC Player of the Year, who won an NCAA tournament as a freshman. Salisbury's all-time assist leader led the CAC in assists (51) and points (88) this season.
Erica Geremia, Cortland, Fr. A
The NCAA tournament could be a coming out party for the next next great Cortland star, who hails from the same high school (West Genesee, N.Y.) as the current next great Cortland star, Maria Di Fato. Geremia's 97 points (48 goals, 49 assists) are the most of any player on a Top 20 team.
Ellen Halle, Middlebury, Sr. A
Halle suffered through most of last season with a knee injury, but hasn't struggled at all this year, leading the NESCAC in goals (50), assists (32) and points (82). Middlebury is on a collision course with Gettysburg in the quarterfinals, Halle had five goals and one assist the first time they met up.
Don't Be Surprised If...
Trinity meets Salisbury for the championship again. Both teams emerged unscathed despite playing brutal schedules. They're seated on opposite sides of the bracket. The teams they beat might be waiting in the final four. The stars are aligning for a rematch at Stevenson.