Lindenwood Wins WILA Title, Excited For Future
A women's lacrosse team from the Western Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association left its mark on the 2012 playoff race this weekend, when Regis handed Rollins its first loss of the season, 14-13.
By 2014, the year Lindenwood is on track to become a full Division II member, the South Region contenders should be paying even more attention to how the West is won.
Lindenwood (15-2) clinched the WILA championship this weekend, wrapping up a perfect 8-0 conference season by sweeping a three-game Colorado road trip through Adams State, 19-1, Fort Lewis, 20-15, and Colorado Mesa, 19-7.
"Three games in three days in general is tough to do," said Lindenwood coach Jack Cribbin. "Mix in that altitude and our girls were dead tired. It was draining mentally and physically. They worked hard to get to [8-0] and they worked hard the whole year."
The perfect road trip wraps up the first-ever NCAA league championship for the university, which is transitioning to Division II. The women's lacrosse team is in its second season of NCAA candidacy. The Lions hope to be postseason eligible in 2014, but they're not waiting to make their mark, ending the season on an 11-game winning streak and forming the West's best rivalry with Regis.
Lindenwood defeated Regis twice, first in overtime in Denver, 14-13, then at home in St. Charles, Mo., 15-12. That game was closer than it appeared.
"The final score was kind of deceiving," Cribbin said. "They were up by three. It was more of a one-goal type game. They quickly became a rival of ours. Whenever we played them you throw statistics out the window. It comes down to draw play and ground balls. Played a real sixty minutes. They're a very talented team that's well-coached."
The top two teams are already making waves, but the WILA, which adds McKendree to its stable next year, will only continue to get better.
So will Lindenwood, although the Lions will graduate some of the best players in program history.
Lexi Crusha rewrote Lindenwood's record books this season and finished with 48 goals and 59 assists. If Lindenwood was fully NCAA eligible, Crusha would currently rank second in points and third in assists in all of Division II.
The Lions also graduate Kara Cashen, their leading goal scorer, who had 55 goals and 10 assists, and Kathryn St. George, who finished fifth on the team in both goals (37) and points (41).
But in all Lindenwood graduates just five players and will return plenty of talent, including two juniors who topped 40 points this year: Justiene Groothuis (48-17-65) and Lindsey Palmer (31-16-59).
The Lions also plan to bring in about 10 new recruits next season, who have already been lured to the prospect of playing for an up-and-coming NCAA threat.
The next big step comes July 1, when Lindenwood will learn whether its been accepted as a provisional NCAA member. The school has already been following all NCAA rules in preparation. That puts the Lions on track for full membership in 2014, when an expanded playoff class might see a new contender emerge.
Said Cribbin: "We're enjoying our success in the present, but we couldn't be more excited for what the future holds."