April 17, 2014

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WD3 Notebook: Mount Union Talking Tourney


In only their second season, Susie Kraus (25 goals, 19 assists) and Mount Union have put themselves in the NCAA Pool B picture. (Steven Kachilla)

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

At this time of year, most lacrosse teams will tell you they aren’t focused on the NCAA tournament. Mount Union is not most lacrosse teams. 

The players on the second-year program from Alliance, Ohio, firmly believe they deserve a Pool B bid into this year’s NCAA tournament. And they have the on-field results to back that up.

“They literally talk about it every single day,” said Mount Union coach Emily Fisher. ”Sometimes we have to calm them down and get them refocused on just taking it one day at a time. They are hoping and praying to be in.”

The Pueple Raiders (11-1) actually started talking about the NCAAs last year, when they finished their inaugural season on a 13-game winning streak. Now, with wins over recent NCAA tournament teams Kenyon and Adrian, there’s a good chance they'll get their wish this May. 

The initial NCAA Regional Rankings have the Raiders ranked second in the West, behind only unbeaten Augustana, and ahead of established programs like Colorado College, Occidental and Redlands.

How does a program go from non-existent to the verge of the NCAA tournament in such a short span? It starts by bringing in the right kind of players.

Fisher, who came to Mount Union after a successful stint running the squad at Hudson High School, recruited all but one of Mount Union’s players. Her recruiting philosophy came from her father, Tim Baab, who was the long-time head basketball coach at John Carroll College.

“My dad told me to recruit good people first and foremost,” Fisher said. “I was smart enough to listen to him.”

It helped that coaching in the high school ranks gave Fisher a front-row view of the best players in Ohio. Sophomore Katherine Doraty, out of Ohio power Medina High School, leads the team with 36 goals and 26 assists. Two players, Kolbie Haines and Casey McHenry, played for Fisher at Hudson. Mount Union is yet another team proving that the Buckeye state is ripe with lacrosse talent.

“It’s grown quite a bit from when I started with wooden sticks and no goggles,” Fisher said. “I didn’t even know what lacrosse was. I just went out for fun.”

And while 12 of Mount Union’s players hail from from Ohio, the Purple Raiders roster boasts players from New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan Illinois, and Kansas. Mount Union has drawn its true believers from all over the country.

“I’ve been a part of a lot of great teams, but this is a very special group,” Fisher said. “They’re all just good people and genuine people. They play hard and hold each other accountable. They really believe in each other and they don’t care who gets the credit.”

If the Raiders reach the NCAA tournament, it will be a credit to all of them. There are no automatic bids in Pool B. This will be the last year Mount Union has to worry about Pool B. Next year the Ohio Athletic Conference will be in Pool A, giving its winner an automatic bid. This season, that bid would certainly have gone to the Purple Raiders, who won their biggest conference game of the season, 14-4, over Capital this weekend.

Automatic bid or not, they won’t stop pleading their case, on or off the field, until selection Sunday.

“They believe in one another and they work together,” Fisher said. “They really do think that anything is possible.”

Looking Ahead

Sunday: No. 1 Salisbury (15-0) at No. 2 Cortland (12-0), noon 

A special treat arrives in Division III’s Easter basket, as Salisbury heads to Cortland for what may well be a preview of the NCAA championship game. This one is tough to forecast. Both teams have dominated despite playing tough schedules. Cortland has the No. 3 defense in the country, while Salisbury’s D ranks No. 9. They have just one common opponent, Catholic, which Cortland defeated, 20-3, and Salisbury defeated, 17-9. Salisbury beat Trinity, but Cortland beat Middlebury. The last time they met head-to-head, Salisbury dominated Cortland on a frigid afternoon in Lancaster, Pa., but much has changed since then. Another blowout would be very surprising.

Game Balls

Lindsay Brophy, Catholic: The junior from Haddonfield, N.J., piled up seven goals, two assists, three ground balls and two caused turnovers as the Cardinals routed Susquehanna, in what is traditionally a battle for the Landmark Conference crown. Brophy has 24 goals and a team-high 19 assists this season.

Katie Burnet, Meredith: Division III’s leading scorer helped make the Avenging Angels the first team to clinch an NCAA tournament berth, by putting up three goals and four assists in a 15-14 upset victory over Piedmont in the USA South Atlantic championship game on on. Burnet’s fourth assist came on a pass to Victoria Doyle, who scored to knot knotted the game at 14 early in the second overtime, setting up Danielle Lee’s game-winning free position shot in the closing seconds of the period. The sophomore from Apex, N.C., has 80 goals and 34 assists this year.

Shea Kusiak, Trinity: The senior from Longmeadow, Mass., returned to the lineup and paired three goals with two assists, one of which set up Molly Cox’s game-winning goal in the Bantams’ 10-9 victory over Middlebury on Saturday. 

Notes

No. 3 Amherst (12-0) will put its perfect record on the line this week trips to No. 9 Williams (11-1) on Saturday and  No. 6 Trinity (10-2) on Wednesday. The top seed, and the right to host the NESCAC semifinals, is still up for grabs, so these victories could be crucial for the Lord Jeffs, who, because of their brutal conference schedule, could be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament if they win out.

***

No. 4 TCNJ (11-1) heads to unbeaten Montclair State (13-0) on Saturday, with the NJAC title on the line. Montclair State defeated a strong Rowan team by three last week and is coming off a 17-0 shutout of Ramapo. TCNJ is fresh off a tough loss to Salisbury, so the Lions will surely not be looking past Montclair.

***

Western New England (14-0) rallied to defeat Endicott (11-3), 9-7, on Tuesday to stay unbeaten and move into the driver’s seat in the Commonwealth Coast Conference. Shelby Trebbe had four goals and one assist for the Golden Bears, who visit University of New England on Saturday.

***

The SAA tournament field is set, with Centre (13-2) earning the top seed and Sewanee (10-6) earning the two seed. Both teams will need the tournament to boost their Pool B chances. Centre defeated Sewanee, 10-4, during the regular season.


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