May 5, 2011

Lock Haven an Unlikely Haven for Lacrosse

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com


Tournament MVP Allison Berger led Lock Haven to their third consecutive PSAC championship with a 13-12 win over its more geographically-friendly nemesis West Chester.

Lock Haven is officially a lax haven.

The Eagles won their third straight PSAC women's lacrosse tournament on Saturday, taking down host West Chester 13-12 in the final. It was the sixth PSAC championship for Lock Haven, which also won three titles from 1979-81.

It's tempting to say with exactly 30 years in between, Lock Haven's second three-peat came out of nowhere. The school's location, smack in the middle of Pennsylvania and basically 200 miles from everywhere, backs that up.

Then you hear about players like Alex Cross who walked on four years ago and ended up starting 17 games as a senior this season. Or junior Gwen Buss, who gave Lock Haven the lead for good on Saturday and was swimming at UNC-Wilimington when the Eagles reached the NCAA championship two years ago. Or junior goalie Heather Sacko who appeared in only nine games last season, and started none, but this week was named First Team All-PSAC.

It would be easy to Lock Haven came out of nowhere, but the truth is Lock Haven came from everywhere.

With a reach as wide as the Susquehanna River that cuts through campus, Lock Haven is uniquely positioned to grab players from both ends of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Maryland. They even have players from Florida and California.

It all depends on finding those Lock Haven players, players who want to be far from anywhere but close to everywhere. LHU is a quiet, wooded campus cut into the side of a mountain, bounded by a river. The closest mall is 40 minutes away but Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York, Baltimore and Rochester are all within a four hours drive.

"It's a different place," said Lock Haven coach Kristen Selvege. "Some people aren't used to it. We don't ever try and recruit a player that doesn't feel at home in Lock Haven."

For the past two seasons the Eagles have felt at home in West Chester. The team's are 2-2 in their past four meetings with the road team winning every time. But it took took longer than a trip to the mall before Lock Haven rest easy on Saturday.

WCU, which had defeated Lock Haven by a goal during the regular season, jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but Lock Haven countered with seven straight goals. Lock Haven led 7-2, 8-3, 9-4 and 10-5 but West Chester ended the game with four straight goals and Sacko had to make two saves in the final minute to preserve the victory. No one relaxed until five seconds remaining when Katie Zichelli forced her third turnover of the game.

Sacko finished with eight saves. Buss and freshman Jessica Pandolph had three goals each. Allison Berger had two goals and two assists. Tori Dugan led West Chester with three goals. Berger, who had six points and three assists in the semifinal victory over East Stroudsberg, was named tournament MVP. On Wednesday Pandolph was named PSAC Freshman of the Year.

"[Pandolph] has brought a lot to our team. She's a fighter," Selvege said. "[Berger] I call the offensive quarterback. She reads the defenses, knows what offense to call... [Zichelli] is just a monster on D. She wants the ball, she's gonna hunt someone down and get it back. She causes turnovers left and right."

Zichelli's from North Jersey, just outside New York City. Sacko's from Western New York, just outside Rochester. Berger's from outside Philadelphia. Pandolph's from Long Island. Buss is from Harrisburg. This is not a team from nowhere.

Said Selvege: "They really want to play. More than anything, it's about the personality of the team. A lot of chemistry. We have great leaders that understand having fun and enjoying each other but are still really focused on the high level of competition out there. It's the perfect combination."

Just like Lock Haven.


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