March 14, 2013

WD2 Notebook: Dowling, With Eyes on May, Taking March Seriously

by Mark MacykLaxMagazine.com

Reigning ECC Rookie of the Year Jackie Andersen has 12 goals and four assists so far for Dowling in 2013.
© Dowling

As anyone with a basic understanding of how calendars work will tell you: A championship is not won in March. It’s a cliché because it’s true. But on the flip side, especially in Division II where so many teams battle for so few NCAA tournament spots, a title can certainly be lost in March.

Dowling found that out the hard way last year. The Lions struggled in March and then, despite winning the East Coast Conference and beating C.W. Post along the way, found themselves at home in May.

This March has gone much better, but the Golden Lions aren’t celebrating yet.

“In our league you can’t lose more than three games,” said Dowling coach Kerri McCabe. “I did remind them in the fall fall that we did go 0-2 last year. It was a wakeup call.”

Message received. Dowling defeated No. 11 New Haven, 21-10, on Saturday and No. 14 Bloomsburg, 15-6, on Wednesday. The Golden Lions (3-0) have now won 12 straight dating back to last April.

It’s a complete turnaround from last March when Dowling, fresh off its first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament, lost its first two games and sat at 2-3 on March 22. After running that record to 4-4, Dowling ended the season on a nine-game winning streak, and defeated the eventual NCAA champions the final game of the year to win the ECC. But the damage had been done and Dowling sat out the NCAA tournament.

“Winning the conference but not going to the NCAA tournament last season set the tone for where we want to be,” McCabe said. “We’re good enough to be there but we have to prove it.”

So far, so good. The two wins were certainly of the prove-it variety. And while it is March, they’re a couple of victories that will help in May.

And Dowling has already gotten revenge on one 2012 season-spoiler. New Haven beat Dowling, 21-10, on April 4 of last season. The Golden Lions haven’t lost since.

One reason for the turnaround requires further understanding of how calendars work. Dowling graduated a great class in 2011, a group of players who were instrumental in building the program into one of Division II’s best. That left younger players to fill the void, a maturation process that takes time. But it’s a new year and those younger players are now leading the way as veterans.

Senior Nicole Moran, who struggled through ilnnesses for much of the early season last year, is healthy and running the attack with a team-high 17 points (11 goals and six assists) and six caused turnovers. Jackie Andersen didn’t even play in that season-opening loss to Saint Anselm last season, but stepped up as the season went on and won the ECC Rookie of the Year Award. She’s picked right up, with 12 goals and four assists as a junior.

Senior goalie Tina Fey was playing in her first Dowling games during those March struggles after transferring in from UMass. This year she’s been steady from Day  One when she made nine saves in a 23-3 victory over Wilmington. And Dowling should have two years of leadership set this time around. The junior class is loaded. Kelly DiFede has 10 goals and a team-high 15 draw controls and speedy midfielder Samantha Stavish has eight goals, two assists, 11 draw controls and five caused turnovers. 

Dowling plays LIU Post on Wednesday, much earlier than usual, and still has Top 10 games with NE-10 contenders Bentley and Stonehill remaining. Like New Haven, Bentley and Stonehill defeated Dowling last year. All told, the Golden Lions were 1-4 against the NE-10 and 12-0 against everyone else. It was the NE-10 that kept the ECC champions out of the playoffs, but McCabe said she never thought about leaving the league off Dowling’s schedule this year.

“We had no doubts,” McCabe said. “To be the best you have to play the best. I don’t want to get in because we didn’t play. If we beat them we deserve to go, if we don’t we didn’t deserve it.”

In their first three games the Golden Lions have proved they deserve it. They’ll have plenty more chances. Check the calendar. It’s only March.

“It’s still early,” McCabe said. “But expectations are high.”

Game of Last Week

Rollins 12, Bentley 11 (OT)

Late victories over the NE-10‘s Massachusetts contingent are becoming the norn for Rollins, which also defeated Stonehill by a goal last week.

This one was even dramatic. 

Alley Rhinehart won it with 1:33 remaining in the sudden death overtime period, but she provided just the final heroic act in a game chock full of them.

Bentley’s Chelsea Larivee scored her second straight goal with 3:34 remaining in regulation to give Bentley an 11-9 lead. That deficit stood until 1:37 remained when Chelsea Pinneke scored to cut Rollins’ deficit to one. Erica Paglialuro scored on a free-position with 31 seconds remaining to force the extra frame. Rollins won the ensuing draw, but Bentley’s Ally Dorman made a save to preserve the tie.

In the first six minutes of overtime the teams turned the ball over a combined five times, before Rhinehart converted a turnover into a long shot at the unoccupied Bentley net to win it.

It’s fitting that Rhinehart’s winner came on a open net off a turnover, because it wasn’t easy to score on Dorman, who made 16 saves, and without whom the score would not have been as close. The Tars outshot Bentley 38-26.

The battle will come in handy for both teams this weekend. Bentley (0-1) has a rough opener to its NE-10 season on Sunday, when it hosts No. 5 Le Moyne (2-1). The day before, Rollins (6-0) hosts what is traditionally its biggest game of the year against No. 6 Limestone (6-1).

Looking Ahead

No. 6 Limestone at No. 3 Rollins, Saturday, 7 p.m.
No. 1 LIU Post at No. 8 Dowling, Wednesday, 4 p.m.

In previous years both of these games have functioned almost as end-of-season championship games, with LIU Post and Dowling deciding the ECC and Limestone and Rollins deciding which team is best south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Last season Rollins and Limestone moved their game up to February. Rollins won that the only way it knows how, by one goal, 11-10. 

The teams look a little different from last year. Sarah Ann Showell won the game for Rollins with 1:28 remaining. She graduated, as did Cat Kelley, who scored late in the second half. But Ginevra Czech, Erica Pagliarulo and Anna Townsend all scored two goals for Rollins in last year’s game and all return, as does goalie Elyse De Lisle. 

Limestone’s leading scorer, Racquel Prager, had four goals and an assist against Rollins last season. She graduated but goal-scorers from last year’s game, Chelsea Treat, Sarah Oor, Brittany Howard, Jessie Aguglia, Sam McCarrick and Sylvia Queener, return.

Rollins (6-0) has the better record, but the only loss for Limestone (6-1) came by one goal to Le Moyne. This is once again a pretty even matchup, and one with a good chance to be repeated this May.

Last May, LIU Post won the NCAA championship. It also lost to Dowling, giving the Golden Lions a second-straight ECC Championship. Post has ended its last two seasons with one-goal losses to Dowling. The ECC does not have a conference tournament.

“They want to beat us because we’ve won the conference, we want to beat them because they’re the national champions,” said McCabe. “Then there’s the whole Long Island rivalry things that go along with it.”

When the games are played at the end of the year they also took on a must-win atmosphere, though Post still made the tournament last year and did all right. With a game in March,  the winner will have made a huge step toward the postseason, but a loss doesn’t end any title hopes.

“Win or lose we’re only four games in,” McCabe said. “If you win it helps yours season tremendously. If you lose it makes it that much harder.”

Game Balls

Marissa Daly, Saint Anselm
Daly scored eight goals, including the game-winner in overtime, and added one assist as Saint Anselm downed Merrimack 15-14 on Wednesday. It capped a stellar week for the sophomore from Marshfield, Mass., who had five goals and one assist in a 19-9 victory over Grand Valley State on Saturday.  

Jackie Sileo, LIU Post
Sileo, the reigning IWLCA midfielder of the year, is on her way to shattering her own assist records, dishing out seven, while scoring three goals, as the Pioneers dispatched No. 11 New Haven 23-13 in their toughest test of the season thus far. This comes on the heels of a three-goal, eight-assist performance in Saturday’s 23-8 victory over Southern New Hampshire. Through four games the junior from Wantagh, N.Y., has eight goals and 33 assists. Last season she led the NCAA, and shattered program records, with 96 assists and 141 points.

Chelsea Treat, Limestone
Treat, a senior from Penn Yan, N.Y., scored a career-high seven goals on seven shots in the Saints’ 19-6 victory over No. 13 Gannon on Saturday. She kept the offensive effort up with four goals and one assist in Wednesday’s 18-6 win at St. Leo. Through seven games, Treat’s 25 goals are tied with sophomore Sam McCarrick for Limestone’s lead.

Miscellaneous

No. 2
West Chester (1-0) started its season with a 20-3 victory over Fort Lewis of the WILA. Thirteen different players scored for the Golden Rams, who head to North Carolina to face Belmont Abbey and Lenoir-Rhyne this week... New Top 10 member Pfeiffer (8-0) did all it could to back up its No. 7 ranking this week, crushing Erskine, 20-1, and Shepherd, 19-2. Expect the Falcons to move up further in the polls if they can knock off No. 11 New Haven in Annapolis on Saturday... The second-best records in Division II belong to Rollins and St. Thomas Aquinas, who are both 6-0. STAC took down two NE-10 foes, American International and Southern Connecticut, on the road this week and begins ECC league play Wednesday against Molloy... Philadelphia University (1-2) shocked Mercy on Wednesday, with a 13-12 victory on Wednesday. No CACC team will be as ready for league play as the Rams who have already played LIU Post and Adelphi and will head to Dowling this weekend... Lock Haven, the only Top 15 team yet to play, gets its season started on Saturday at Shepherd. The Eagles, who went 11-6 last year, open with six road games before hosting Millersville on April 2.

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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