WD2 Season Debrief: Early Top 5, Next Best, Is Tournament Big Enough?
by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com
|LIU Post's Jackie Sileo, who is
already Division II's all-time leading scorer, returns for her
senior season in 2013 for the two-time defending champion
© Scott McCall
Much has changed since 2001. Back then, the television show “24” was set to air its first season and C.W. Post won the first NCAA Division II championship.
Twelve years later, “24” is set to return to the airwaves and LIU Post just won the most recent NCAA Division II championship. But, unlike “24,” the caliber of Division II improved in each subsequent season. A time traveller from 2001 would have been very impressed by the level of play at this season’s final four.
Expect next year to be even more competitive and if we have another undefeated NCAA champion, for time travelers to find the feat even more impressive.
Way Too Early Top 5 for 2013
1. LIU Post
No one has defeated the two-time defending champs since the end of the 2012 regular season. The Pioneers played the whole year with a target on their back, never lost and defeated their archrivals along the way. A true perfect season.
Key Returner: Jackie Sileo, JR A
Post loses plenty — its seven seniors include NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Ashley Olen, 2012 IWLCA Goalie of the Year Dominque Mosca, third-leading scorer Abbie Ross, and midfield leader Brie-Clare Drost. But you can’t pick against the Pioneers as long as Sileo, already Division II’s all-time leading scorer, is still around, gearing up for one more year and one more championship.
Question: Who plays goalie?
Dominique Mosca was a rock in the cage for four seasons for the Pioneers, beginning with an ECC Goalie of the Year award as a freshman and continuing right on through with back-to-back championships. Without her 13 saves in the semifinals against Adelphi, the Pioneers very likely would not even have had the chance to play for another title. The answer may be junior Katie Hannan, who has seen playing time in each of the past three seasons. Hannan earned wins in a pair of tough starts against New Haven and Holy Family earlier this year. Kasey Kephart a freshman and two-time all-county selection, from Hauppauge, N.Y., saw action in four games this year and should give LIU a second talented option.
Three players, all underclassmen, fielded questions from the media after the Panthers' 7-6, last-second loss to LIU Post in the semifinals. It was a heartbreaking loss, but the players didn’t look heartbroken. They looked angry. Angry that, thanks to a perfect game plan, Adelphi was minutes away from sending its archrival home without another championship, and fell just short. Plenty has changed at Adelphi in the past two years. One thing remains the same: Anything less than a championship is unacceptable.
Key Returner: Rachel O’Brien, FR A
O’Brien finished fourth among Division II freshmen with 75 goals, but first among freshmen on Division II NCAA tournament teams and was the only Adelphi player to score more than one goal in the semifinals against Post. Take note, this is the beginning of the kind of career people talk about.
Question: What impact will Rob Grella’s first full recruiting class have?
Because he was hired near the end of July 2011, Grella was behind the eight ball with recruiting his first class at Adelphi. He still brought in a heck of a group, including O’Brien, Camille Rosellini, who followed Jackie Sileo around like her shadow in the semifinals, and goalie Taylor Hayes, who steadied the the team as it rallied back against Le Moyne in the NCAA first round. If that’s the kind of talent Adelphi can bring in in a time crunch, you have to wonder what Grella was able to scoop up with a full year to work with.
|Canadian Sarah Oor, Limestone's
all-time leading scorer, returns. That's one reason the Saints are
the favorite to repeat as South champs.
© Scott McCall
For the second time in three years, Scott Tucker took the podium first after the NCAA championship game as the runner-up to an undefeated national champion. But Limestone was much closer this time around, the Saints led LIU Post midway through the fourth quarter, before Post's pickle juice kicked in. Tucker could have made excuses — after a triple overtime thriller on Saturday night, Limestone left Stevenson when most of LIU's players were likely in bed — but instead he showed a ton of class and praised the play of both teams in the finals. By defeating Rollins twice, the Saints reaffirmed themselves as the team to beat in the South.
Key Returner: Sarah Oor, JR A
Oor finished third in Division II with 73 assists and only Jackie Sileo returns with more. With two points in the national championship game, Oor became Limestone’s all-time leading scorer. With plenty of scoring punch graduating, look to the Canadian All-American to add to that total just a bit next season.
Question: Who will Oor pass to?
Limestone graduates a veritable all-star team including: Chelsea Treat, Sylvia Queener, Jessie Aguglia, Brittany Howard and goalie Rashelle McLellan. Odds are Katie Farrell takes an even bigger step forward. The junior scored 51 goals, third most on the team, despite making zero starts. Sophomore Sam McCarrick, who finished second to Treat with 53 goals, also returns, making Limestone the favorite to repeat in the South.
Even after a gut-wrenching loss in the South Region finals, Rollins remained Rollins. Dennis Short said he’d encourage the aggressive play that Limestone took advantage of late in the game. Then, despite being just minutes removed from a brutal overtime loss, Short, Courtney Bianculli and Erica Pagliarulo were all able to face the media and laugh about the journey Rollins has been on. Being themselves might have sent the Tars home early this year, but it will benefit them in the long run.
Key Returner: Caroline Lamere, JR A
Lamere topped the Tars with 54 points this season and led the team with two goals and two assists in the season-ending loss to Limestone. With seven seniors graduating, look to Lamere’s leadership to keep Rollins afloat.
Question: Will Rollins version 2.0 work the same way?
Chelsea Bianculli, who started with the program six years ago, finally leaves, as do Erica Pagliaurlo, Mo Imel and Sophie Townsend - players who meant so much to the foundation of these program. Most of these seniors had to survive early-season cuts to large portions of their roster only to play home games nowhere near campus. Rollins’ younger players arrive on an already established program, where an NCAA title is the expectation. The key will be balancing that expectation of success with the identity that the early players worked so hard to build.
5. Le Moyne
Le Moyne failed to reach the Final Four for the fist time since it transitioned to Division II in 2011. But the Dolphins were 3-1 against teams that played at Stevenson, despite fielding 14 freshmen. If we played the tournament out again, Le Moyne could easily have been the team raising the trophy.
Key Returner: Molly Marbut, SO GK
The Dolphins had high expectations for Marbut coming in from South River (Mass.) High School. She exceeded those in her first year as a starter, ranking sixth in Division II in goals against average and topping it all by being named the Northeast-10 tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
The Question: Can the Dolphins take the leap?
Le Moyne was young once again this season, and still managed to host a first round NCAA tournament game. The Dolphins finally beat Adelphi in a playoff game, but that was the NE-10 title game and Adelphi got revenge a week later in the North Region semifinals. The Dolphins have reached two North Region finals, but have yet to play on the final day. They are capable of changing that next season.
Knocking on the door: Lock Haven, West Chester.
A Future Five
Here are five (mostly) unranked teams, capable of pulling a Pfeiffer and crashing the Top 15 next year:
Division II’s toughest league got a little tougher at the end of the season. New Haven, Adelphi, Le Moyne and Stonehill (twice) all survived near upsets against the Hawks. And while Saint Anselm lost each of those Top 15 showdowns, it resulted in five losses by a combined six goals. Close games have a way of reversing themselves. The Hawks should certainly increase their win total next season.
This is cheating a little, because the Lions finished the year in the Top 15, but they were ineligible for the NCAA tournament. Lindenwood played Rollins as close as anyone but Limestone and only lost to Rollins and Adelphi. Next year LU will be eligible for the NCAA tournament. Expect Jack Cribbin to continue to schedule any and everyone to give his team every chance of playing in it.
Grand Valley State
It was an outstanding second season for the Lakers from Western Michigan. After toiling through an early schedule that featured Saint Anselm, Dowling, Adelphi and Queens (N.Y.), GVSU ripped through the GLIAC, winning 11 straight and capturing the league's inaugural championship. Year 3 is when your first class become veterans. With a couple of non-league upsets, GVSU could make a run at the North’s final playoff spot.
If they didn’t play in the same league as Lindenwood, we’d talk a lot more about the Rangers, who have finished second in the WILA for two straight seasons. Regis pushed Florida Southern and Gannon to the brink this season and upset Rollins at the end of last year. South Region teams should continue to schedule Regis at their own risk.
The Rams fell short in the CACC title game, losing to defending champion Holy Family, but Philly U was dominant during the regular season and played a schedule (LIU Post, Adelphi, Dowling) indicative of a team ready for the big time. If any team from the CACC is going to shock Division II, it could be the Rams, who graduate just two seniors.
Was Eight Enough?
The Division II tournament could not have been more competitive. But it could have been a little bigger, without losing any of that competitiveness. Here’s what a 16 team bracket could have yielded this year. (For the purposes of this, we’ll include Lindenwood because they’ll be included in future seasons):
South: 1. Limestone, 2. Rollins, 3. Lock Haven, 4. Pfeiffer, 5. West Chester, 6. Indian (Pa.), 7. Florida Southern, 8. Lindenwood.
There’s not a bad matchup among those. That bracket would have settled the Pfeiffer/West Chester debate on the field and provided a couple of intriguing rivalry games (Lock Haven-IUP, Rollins-Florida Southern) in the first round.
North: 1. LIU Post, 2. Le Moyne, 3. Adelphi, 4. Stonehill, 5. Dowling, 6. New Haven, 7. Bentley, 8. Saint Anselm.
At first glance, this first round appears a bit more mismatched, but, don’t forget, Bentley beat Le Moyne during the regular season and Saint Anselm played every team close at the end.
The point remains. Division II can support more teams in the NCAA tournament. Ten or 12 is a great next step, but 16 seems like a magic number.
After all, a lot has happened since 2001.
Mark Macyk has covered Division II and III women’s lacrosse for Lacrosse Magazine since 2011. He can be contacted at email@example.com.