April 18, 2013

WD3 Notebook: Christopher Newport on Course for NCAAs

by Mark Macyk LaxMagazine.com

Lauren King (34 goals, 28 assits) is one of ten Captains to have double-digit goals and eight with double-digit assists.
© Christopher Newport

The Captains are headed for uncharted waters.

On Saturday, Christopher Newport wrapped up its eighth-straight USA South championship in dominating fashion with a 23-8 victory over Greensboro. The next stop is the NCAA tournament. Then the Captains will literally move on to new ports, as members of the Capital Athletic Conference.

The move will put the perennial NCAA tournament team in a league with heavyweights like Salisbury, York and Mary Washington. It’s exactly where the Captains want to be.

After graduating just two players from the most accomplished team in program history, Christopher Newport entered this season with seven seniors and high hopes.

“They came in this fall looking to really create a new name for CNU lacrosse,” said coach Carolyn Raveia. “To redefine CNU lacrosse. We didn’t want to be a team that comes from the USA South, makes the tournament and loses. We wanted to be recognized on a national level for all the hard work we’ve been doing. They’re just so motivated.”

So far, so good. The season started with a two-goal loss to Mary Washington on Feb. 26. A week later, CNU edged Washington & Lee, the team that knocked the Captains out of the NCAA tournament in 2011, 9-8. They haven’t lost since. After winning their conference semifinals and finals by a combined 31 goals this weekend, the winning streak stands at 16 games.

People are taking notice. CNU dropped anchor in Top 20 at the end of February and hasn’t left since, checking in at No. 14 in the latest rankings. It’s an unheard of ranking for a team from the USA South, but for a future CAC team its par for the course.

“It’s an honor to be ranked and recognized by the other coaches and we do take pride in it but it’s not our focus,” Raveia said. “It’s a motivator. Once you’re on that list you can’t sit back and think the job is done now. It’s a little more pressure.”

If they’re feeling that pressure, it hasn’t shown on the field. CNU has already set single-season program records with 314 goals and 486 points. There’s still three games to go, and maybe more. Only one win since March 16 has come by fewer than 15 goals. The Captains rank second in Division III in scoring offense (18.47 goals per game) and fourth in scoring defense (5.59).

Throughout the year Ashton Marshall, who was named the USA South Tournament MVP after a seven-goal championship game performance, has topped the score sheet for CNU. The junior has 67 goals, just nine away from CNU’s single-season record. But it’s balance that is CNU’s real strength. Ten Captains have double-digit goals and eight have double-digit assists. So if a team focuses on Marshall, they’ll have to deal with Elena Obregon (49 goals, 25 assists), Lauren King (34 goals, 28 assists), Jessica Singer (34 goals, 13 assists), Becca Geist (25 goals, 28 assists), Rachel Tomlinson (16 goals, 16 assists) or, very likely, someone they hadn’t even bothered to scout.

“You can shut down one player that you may think is our star but we have other people that are ready,” Raveia said. “We can throw someone out there that appears to be a wild card but we have trust in.”

Geist and King are Captain captains as is defender Monica Evans, who has 26 ground balls and 14 caused turnovers.

CNU has two games remaining, at Randolph-Macon on Saturday and then future conference-mate Salisbury on Sunday, before the NCAA tournament begins. The Captains hope to ride that wave for as long they can.

“Right now the focus is on Randolph-Macon,” Raveia said. “Then the expectation is to take care of business in that first round game, get a win, and see how far we can go.”

Game of Last Week

No. 1 Trinity 10, No. 3 Middlebury 9 

Trinity was in trouble for the first time all year. Middlebury had just scored four straight to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Then Shea Kusiak stepped up and delivered the game-winner for the Bantams with 1:54 remaining. The undefeated season remains. Trinity’s winning streak reached 20 games.

What it means for Trinity: You never want to make assumptions in the NESCAC — the Bantams still have No. 16 Hamilton and No. 12 Amherst on the schedule — but Trinity’s in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed and home field throughout the conference tournament. That will come in handy, any edge counts with Middlebury, Colby and Bowdoin around. The victory also erases any doubts that Trinity deserves to be No. 1. Salisbury has looked unbeatable this season, but until it’s taken from them, the Bantams are No. 1.

What it means for Middlebury: The chance to host the NESCAC semifinals was lost in this one as the Panthers will likely be heading to Hartford again in two weeks. They can lock up second place in the NESCAC with a win over Colby this weekend. On a positive note, pushing Trinity to the brink reaffirms Middlebury’s spot as the No. 3 team in the country and the No. 1A contender to Trinity’s crown.

Up next: These teams can never relax. Middlebury wraps up its NESCAC slate with Colby and Williams. Trinity has Hamilton and Amherst. The NESCAC tournament begins on April 27, at the higher seeds.

Looking Ahead

No. 5 Gettysburg at No. 7 Franklin & Marshall, Wednesday

Few rivalries can match this one between two Centennial Conference foes separated by 55 miles and the Susquehanna River. 

These teams haven’t met at full strength since 2011, when F&M handed Gettysburg its final two losses of the season. Of course, the Bullets followed that up with five straight wins in the NCAA tournament and won their first NCAA championship

Both teams have high-powered offenses but it could come down to the stellar players that each team has between the pipes. Gettysburg’s Lindsay Clinton leads the Centennial Conference with a 6.74 GAA and F&M’s Kelsey Hoffman is third at 8.05.

The Centennial Conference has been more unpredictable than ever this year. Dickinson and Haverford both beat Washington College this week and McDaniel just beat Dickinson. But the league still goes through these two teams, and the smart money is on a rematch in conference championship.

Game Balls

Carolyn Gorajek, Bowdoin: Gorajek, a senior out of the Peddie School (N.J.), had two assists and four goals, including the game-winner in sudden death overtime, as No. 8 Bowdoin upset No. 6 Colby 11-10 on Tuesday. The victory was huge for Bowdoin, as it moves into third place, which means it could avoid Trinity until the NESCAC finals. Gorajek currently leads the Polar Bears with 35 goals and 13 assists.

Diana Perry, Haverford: Perry had six goals and five draw controls as Haverford upset No. 20 Washington College 12-11 on Wednesday. Earlier in the week, Perry had three goals, two draw controls and a ground ball in Haverford’s 21-7 victory over Bryn Mawr. The sophomore from Bethseda, Md., is currently tied for the Centennial Conference lead with 50 goals.

Leah Warner, Stevenson: Warner, a junior from Pasadena, Md., had two goals and two assists, and the score that gave Stevenson the lead for good, in a 13-9 win over No. 15 Messiah on Wednesday. The victory gives Stevenson sole possession of first place in the Commonwealth Conference. On Saturday, Warner had three goals three goals and four assists in Stevenson’s 16-7 victory over Albright. Warner leads the Mustangs, who have won 12 straight, with 39 goals and 21 assists. 

Miscellaneous

No. 11 Susquehanna (12-0, 3-0 Landmark) rolled over Scranton this week, but now faces its biggest test of the season when the Crusaders visit rival Catholic (7-7, 2-0 Landmark) on Saturday. Catholic handed SU its only two losses last season and reached the NCAA tournament, while the Crusaders stayed at home... No. 4 Cortland (12-1, 5-0 SUNYAC) and No. 17 Fredonia (13-0, 5-0 SUNYAC) both beat Buffalo State this week and as long as Fredonia can hold off a feisty Brockport team next week, it seems we’ll have an undefeated SUNYAC showdown on the final day of the regular season... Joining Trinity, Salisbury, Susquehanna and Fredonia among the ranks of the unbeatens is Denison (12-0), which knocked off Wooster on Tuesday, but gets Wittenberg (9-3), which is ranked ahead of Denison in the latest NCAA regional rankings, this weekend... The Commonwealth Coast Conference regular season crown will likely be on the line when Endicott (9-5, 6-0 CCC) visits Western New England (10-4, 5-1 CCC) this weekend. Western New England was the last conference team to defeat Endicott, back in 2011.

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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