May 1, 2014

Women's D3 Notes: Can Social Push Extend Centre's Season?

By Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter


Centre's Sarah Mastey is "a player you have to see to believe," according to coach Julie Beer. The Colonels are hoping people get a few more chances to see her play.  (Centre)

In 2008, when it looked like NBC might not renew "Friday Night Lights," fans of the high school football drama sent broken lightbulbs to the studio head to show their support for the Dillon Panthers. This week, supporters of the Centre women's lacrosse team took a more 2014 approach to achieve similar goal: They just wanted to make certain that Sunday wasn't the season finale for their favorite program.

The messages started appearing on Monday morning, as fans of the fourth-year program from Danville, Ky., began tweeting the NCAA's Division III account with messages calling for Centre's inclusion in the NCAA tournament, often accompanied by hashtags like #SouthernRepresentation and #growthegame.

"I think it's pretty cool to see the support," said Centre coach Julie Beer, who has compiled a 50-20 record in four years on the job. "There are a lot of people who want to see this team in particular, or definitely a southern team, go out and do something with the bid."

It's that last part, Beer said, that separates Centre from the pack. The South has sent teams to the Big Dance before, but it often ends with a one and done. The Colonels are out to prove that a team from a non-traditional lacrosse area can make a sustained run in the NCAAs. They just need the chance to do so.

"I think we can compete and I think we can make something out of it," Beer said. "I think that's important for the South Region. I'm sick of losing top talent in the area to more established programs. I think we can come out and do something with this bid."

If the tweeting gets the Colonels (16-3) noticed, the NCAA committee will find a team with a pretty impressive Pool B resume. In the Colonels favor is the their unbeaten SAA regular season and solid non-league wins over Lynchburg of the ODAC and USA South Regular Season champion Piedmont. But Sunday's SAA championship game, which Centre lost, 11-8, to second-seeded Sewanee, 11-8, could hurt. Sewanee reached the NCAA tournament as a Pool B team last year, after winning the SAA and will be in the running this year as well. Centre did defeat Sewanee, 10-4, in the regular season. They're a chance one, both, or neither team gets in, depending on where the NCAA looks for its Pool B teams.

The Colonels did get good news on Tuesday. Centre placed five players -- Sarah Mastey, Meg Hawthorne, Audrey Powers, Jacqueline Anderson and Anne Carol Preuss -- on the All-SAA team. Beer was named Coach of the Year. Mastey took home Defensive Player of the Year honors.

"She's a player you have to see to believe," Beer said, of Mastey. "She's a Chattanooga kid and to get her on the national stage, that recognition would be huge for the sport and the whole movement of grow the game."

Mastey, a true midfielder, who led Center in scoring and led the league in ground balls and caused turnovers, and Hawthorne, who has 54 goals and 33 assists, were freshmen on Centre's inaugural team and have starred since Day 1 in Danville. Both cracked 200 career points this season.

"This is going to be a really tough group to replace," Beer said. "We've talked about them being bridge builders and building for others to follow and planting roots. They've suffered so that others can achieve."

The SAA will not get an automatic bid until next season, and that actually works in Centre's favor this year. A Pool C bid would be out of the question. Pool B is where teams from up-and-coming areas get their shot. And Beer has seen first hand what can happen when that shot is given.

Beer is an assistant coach with the field hockey team, which, like her lacrosse team, went undefeated in the conference season, hosted the conference tournament, and then lost in the tournament. They ended up getting an at-large bid to the NCAAs and reached the Sweet 16.

But, for now, all the Colonels can do is wait for Sunday. Like their fans, they're not taking the week off.

"I'm not getting a lot of sleep," Beer said. "We're going to prepare and we're going to plan, because if it does happen we want to be ready for it. Like I said, we're going to make something of it. And I don't think we could take a week off and make what we need to make out of that bid. So we're going to prepare and we're going to plan and we're going to be that much better of it."

Looking Ahead

Saturday: NESCAC Semifinals at Trinity
No. 6 Colby vs No. 1 Trinity, noon
No. 4 Williams vs. No. 2 Amherst, 2:30 p.m.

Colby is the only team in this foursome not guaranteed an NCAA tournament spot, but after a pair of victories over Middlebury, it's very hard to imagine the Mules missing out, not matter what happens in Hartford this weekend. As for teams not playing this weekend, Middlebury is likely in despite its early NESCAC exist, and Tufts' resume is good enough as well. Division III has only eight Pool C bids, and three seem locked up by the runner-ups from the CAC, Centennial and SUNYAC. Could the other five go to one conference? A few teams (Montclair St., Fredonia, St. John Fisher) will have something to say about that, but it's not impossible.

Game Balls

(Conference Championship Edition)

Crawford Horan, Sewanee: The freshman from Alexandria, Va., took home tournament MVP honors after she made eight saves and helped hold Centre to one goal as the Tigers upset the Colonels, 11-8, in the SAA title game on Sunday.

Nicole Marzocca, Farmingdale State: FSU's all-time leading scorer gave the Rams the lead for good in the second half and Farmingdale State held off St. Joseph's (L.I.), 9-8, in the Skyline Championship game. The junior from North Babylon, N.Y., has 54 goals and 44 assists this season.

Brooke Sabol, Wheaton: The sophomore out of Burr & Burton Academy (Vt.) took home NEWMAC Most Outstanding Player honors after winning nine draw controls, including seven straight to open the game, in the Lyons' 8-5 championship game victory over Babson. Sabol finished the tournament with three goals, two assists, nine ground balls, 12 draw controls and three caused turnovers in two games.

Lauren White, Emmanuel: After making 17 saves in the quarterfinals, the sophomore from Lynnefield, Mass., stopped 11 more shots in the Saints' 17-7 GNAC championship game victory over St. Joseph's, Maine, and was named tournament MVP.

Notes

The deluge that soaked the Northeast on Wednesday forced the postponement of games in the Centennial, Commonwealth, CSCAC, Freedom and NJAC tournaments. All have been moved to Thursday. The Division III conference tournament races can be tracked at the Conference Tournament Clearinghouse, which will updated nightly until Selection Sunday.

***

One team that now has to wait and see if its name will be called on Sunday is previously-unbeaten Western New England, which was stunned by fourth-seeded Roger Williams, 19-11, in the first round of the Commonwealth Coast tournament. Deven Machette had five goals and two assists to lead Roger Williams. The Comm. Coast title game will now be played between Roger Williams and No. 2 Endicott. Western New England placed eighth (behind seven NESCAC teams) in the latest New England Regional Rankings, and will be a longshot to make the tournament.

***

The SUNYAC saw an upset in its first round as No. 5 Oneonta took down No. 4 Brockport, 13-9, behind four goals and one assist from Catherine Clark. Oneonta's victory sets up a Red Dragons vs Red Dragon semifinal clash with No. 1 Cortland. No. 2 Geneseo takes on No. 3 Fredonia in the other semifinal. Cortland, Geneseo and Fredonia take up the top three spots in the New York Regional Rankings (ahead of Ithaca and St. John Fisher) so there's a chance the SUNYAC gets a second at-large bid.

***

No. 3 Denison surprised second-seeded Allegheny, 14-13, on Whitney Powell's late goal to advance to the North Coast championship game. The Big Red will take on Wittenberg, which defeated Wooster, 19-11, in its semifinal. Wittenberg edged Denison, 15-14, when they met in the regular season.


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