April 10, 2014

WD3 Notebook: Reigning Champ's Season Still Untouched

By Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Ashton Wheatley has fulfilled expectations so far for the No. 1 Sea Gulls, earning the nod as the keeper of the first half. (Scott McCall)

Division III is just six weeks away from crowning a new NCAA champion, and the old champion still hasn’t lost a game. But while Salisbury hasn’t slipped from the top of the heap, there’s been plenty of drama from the teams chasing the Seagulls.

The season still is not scheduled to end until May 25 in Gettysburg, but here are some awards, just to mark the progress so far.

Midfielder of the Half Year

Lauren Pigott, TCNJ: The NHL hands out the Frank J. Selke trophy annually to its best defensive forward. If we had that award for lacrosse, it would go to Pigott, a key cog in TCNJ’s No. 4 ranked defense. In addition to her 30 goals and 14 assists, the senior out of Northern Burlington (N.J.) High School, has piled up 33 ground balls, 41 draw controls and 17 caused turnovers.

Honorable Mention: Bethany Baer, Salisbury; Martha Griffin, Trinity; Alex Philie, Amherst.

Attacker of the Half Year

Erica Geremia, Cortland: Jackie Sileo of Division II LIU Post just broke the NCAA all-division scoring record. If there’s a younger player with a chance to someday break that mark, it’s Geremia. A year after leading the country in scoring as a freshman, the sophomore from West Genesee (N.Y.) has picked right back up with 27 goals and 34 assists.

Honorable Mention: Caroline Buonocore, Geneseo; Tierney Conlon, Montclair St.; Caroline Krohn, Franklin and Marshall; Kelsey Markiewicz, Gettysburg; Shelby Nemecek, Salisbury.

Defender of the Half Year

Jessica Lavelle, Cortland: The Red Dragons are currently tied with Amherst for the second-stingiest defense in Division III and their captain is once again a big reason for it. The senior out of Fayetteville-Manlius (N.Y.) has 22 caused turnovers and 19 ground balls this year. Cortland has allowed more than seven goals just once all season.

Honorable Mention: Hannah Deoul, Middlebury; Cat Dioli, Bates; Emily Wright, Tufts; Megan Strauch, York.

Goalie of the Half Year

Ashton Wheatley, Salisbury: It’s been nearly two years since Wheatley has been between the pipes for a loss, in the 2012 NCAA championship game, which is still the only loss she’s played in. Despite playing against one of the country's toughest schedules, the junior out of the nearby Salisbury School ranks 18th in D3 in save percentage (.534) and eighth in goals against average (6.29).

Honorable Mention: Christy Forrest, Amherst; Liz Ingalls, Cortland; Amanda Reichart, Oneonta; Ashley Smith, York; 

Game of the Half Year

Amherst 11, Middlebury 10 (March 29): The oldest athletic program in the nation became the first new name to crack the Top 3 of the rankings this season. That shakeup came after back-to-back late goals from Alex Philie and Elizabeth Ludlow helped the Lord Jeffs hand Middlebury its first, and only, loss of the season. Amherst still has Trinity, Williams and the NESCAC tournament looming, but the team can look back on this game as proof that it can beat anyone.

Upset of the Half Year

Bates 6, Trinity 3 (March 15): Amherst and Middlebury will get their shots at Trinity in the coming weeks, but it was Bates who fired the first salvo against the Bantams, executing a dominating defensive gameplan to hand Trinity its first regular season loss since 2012. Of course, later that week Endicott pulled Upset of the Half Year 2.0, and defeated the Bobcats, 11-10.

Best Turnaround

Washington and Lee: Washington and Lee is not supposed to be a .500 team, fighting for its life as a fourth seed in the ODAC Tournament. But that’s where the Generals found themselves last season. They ended up rallying to reach another NCAA tournament, but the season remained a disappointment. But, after a refocused offseason, the Generals (10-2) are back and have won six in a row since losing to Salisbury by two on March 8. They should be a team to reckon with come May. 

Most Anticipated Tournament 

NESAC: The SUNYAC stated its case, and it's tough to deny the talent at the top of the Centennial and CAC, but no league can come close to the NESAC, which, while it may not have the No. 1 team in the country anymore, is more talented top to bottom than any league this side of the UEFA Champions League. Nine NESCAC teams currently rank in LM’s Top 20, meaning one ranked squad will miss this tournament all together. Trinity has won the title three years running, but all seven others that make it will enter with a legitimate shot at stealing the crown this season.

Game of the Future

Salisbury at Cortland, April 20: Salisbury dominated Cortland on a neutral field at Franklin and Marshall last season, but this time the Seagulls will be stepping into the Dragons' lair in Upstate New York. Will it be an NCAA championship preview? Perhaps. Both teams have looked unstoppable thus far. As a bonus, a Salisbury vs. Cortland championship game would add fodder to the Maryland vs. New York lacrosse debate. In a division dominated by small private schools, these public institutions from lacrosse-mad states stand out.

And now, just in case the season continues, back to the regular Notebook features.

Looking Ahead

Saturday: No. 8 Trinity (9-2) at No. 5 Middlebury (9-1), 2 p.m.

They’re not unbeaten this year, but this is still a marquee matchup on the Division III slate. For the past two years, it seemed like the Panthers, coached by Trinity coach Kate Livesay’s former coach Missy Foote, would be the team to unseat Trinity. Bates got there first. Then Middlebury suffered its first loss of the year to Amherst. But both teams are headed to the NESCAC tournament and the winner of this game will still have a shot at hosting that shindig. It's a doubly tough week for Middlebury, which will host unbeaten Cortland on Thursday.

Game Balls

Lindsay McKenna, Colby: The Mules showed they’re still the squad to beat in Maine, when McKenna delivered her fifth goal of the game to give Colby an 11-10 victory over Bowdoin on Wednesday. The senior from Fairfield, Conn., leads the Mules with 26 goals this season. The crucial victory moved Colby to fourth place in league play, while Bowdoin dropped to eighth.

Stephanie Garrett, Redlands: The sophomore from San Diego paired five goals with one assist as the Bulldogs avenged their early-season loss to Occidental and dropped the Tigers, 12-9, on Saturday. Garrett added three goals and one assist in Wednesday's victory over rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Relands is now tied with Occidental for first place in the SCIAC.

Kira Schott, MIT: Schott scored six times, including twice in the final 31 seconds, as the Engineers rallied from a four-goal deficit to edge Wellesley, 15-14, in overtime on Tuesday. Three days earlier, in a win over Smith, the sophomore out of Greenwich (Conn.) Academy piled up three goals, one assist, two ground balls, two caused turnovers and nine draw controls.

Notes

Wilkes and SUNYIT both lost on Wednesday, leaving just nine undefeated teams remaining in Division III. Four are among the usual suspects -- Amherst, Cortland, Salisbury and TCNJ -- and, as of now, are the favorites to be playing on the last weekend of the season. Here’s a look at the three other teams that complete this magnificent seven:

Augustana (10-0, 6-0 Midwest): Two years ago, Augustana coach Sarah Tisdale said her goal at the Illinois school was to dispel the myth that Midwestern lacrosse was sub par. In just their third year of existence, the Vikings are doing just that. They are once again the team to beat in the Midwest and have scored victories over elite Southern teams like Sewanee and Centre. The big test should come next week, when the Vikings host fellow league unbeaten North Central.

Montclair St. (12-0, 2-0 NJAC): Yes, it’s the NJAC, not the CAC, not the SUNYAC, and not the Centennial, that is the last league standing with two undefeated teams. The Redhawks just easily handed Richard Stockton its second loss and have a tough road test coming at Rowan before the big showdown with TCNJ on April 19.

Western New England (13-0, 5-0 Comm. Coast): The Golden Bears actually have the best record in all of Division III, but are staring down their toughest week of the season: a trip to Endicott on Tuesday, followed by a showdown with 2013 NCAA tournament team Lasell. If it is unbeaten at this time next week, WNE will be the overwhelming favorite to claim the Comm. Coast crown and the NCAA tournament bid that comes with it.


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