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December 28, 2009

Women's DIII: The Real Deal

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Coyne Archive

Men's D-III Real Deal | MCLA Real Deal

Seriously, what exactly is the purpose of a preseason poll?

Kristin Joyce and Union will win a key early-season match-up with Salisbury, but will the Dutchwomen be holding up the Walnut & Bronze on mid-May?
© Trent Hermann

Are we trying to predict who will be where at the end of the season? If Franklin & Marshall is the preseason No. 1, are we saying that they will win it all this year, or is it just a bouquet for winning last spring's title? If I pick Colby No. 10, does that mean they are considered a tournament team, or is it they have serious potential for the upcoming season? How are we supposed to read these things?

Frankly, I'm sick of it. Yes, we here at LMO, along with everyone else, post preseason rankings, but what good does that do anyone? A rough reproduction of last season's final rankings with the usual upgrade for the traditionally strong programs - the standard formula for preseason polls - tells us nothing. What we need to know is what will be the key storylines for the upcoming season, what teams will be making the tournament, and, of course, who's taking home the hardware in May.

One of the reasons you get the vanilla preseason rankings is because they are safe. Any publication that puts out a preseason poll can point at the voters if there's an anomaly, quickly passing the blame. Safe, but kind of soft. It takes a higher intellect - a man of vision, if you will - to precisely predict the state of lacrosse in eight months.

I'm your huckleberry.

Below, you'll find the eventual storylines of the 2010 season, as well as the tournament field and the ultimate winner. But just a quick caution: if you don't want to know how the 2010 season is going to finish, stop reading here.

Top Five Storylines in Women's Division III

1. Home Field Advantage
Could this have lined up any better for Gettysburg? Not only do they lose just one player off last year's national semifinalist, but the Bullets were awarded the rights to host the semifinals and finals of the NCAA women's tournament in 2010. And guess what? They're going to take full advantage of this present by rolling to a 24-0 record and their first national title.

2. Plenty of Fresh Faces
As you'll see below, there are still plenty of the old guard teams - you know, the TCNJs, Middleburys, Cortlands, etc. - that will make the 2010 tournament, but there will also be an influx of new programs. Filling out the 2010 bracket will be Roger Williams (R.I.) from the Commonwealth Coast Conference, Elizabethtown from the MAC, Buffalo State from the SUNYAC, Adrian, an independent, Stevens out of the Empire 8, and Kenyon from the NCAC.

This development, obviously, is due to the availability of more and more great student-athletes in different parts of the country choosing the Division III model. It also has to do with great coaches choosing Division III - some by choice, and some because there are just aren't that many D-I and D-II jobs to satisfy all of the former players joining the coaching ranks. Finally, it is a testament to the dedication that institutions are showing for their women's lacrosse programs, especially in providing the resources to reach the highest level.

It sounds kind of campy, but everyone should feel good about these developments.

3. Western Indies Mobilize
As I suspected when I wrote my manifesto for Western Independents, Claremont and the rest of the teams west of the Mississippi were frozen out of this year's tournament with the ascendancy of Adrian (Mich.). With this occurrence, those in the west should do exactly as I say.

Either that or the SCIAC needs to fast-track its move to an automatic qualifier.

4. Surprise Team: Roger Williams
Sure, Stevens, Buff State and Etown are first-time entrants, but they've been knocking on the door for a couple of years now. RWU will be coming out of nowhere. Well, nowhere from a national perspective. The Hawks were in the CCC hunt last fall, posting a 15-4 record and falling to Endicott in the conference championship game. With Endicott retooling, Roger Williams has nearly the entire team returning in 2010. The Hawks also hired Abi Jackson away from Plymouth State and the former three-sport star at Williams shaped this talented squad into a conference champion.

Following up on the above point about fresh faces, my semi-exhaustive research has RWU's inclusion in the field of 26 in 2010 as the first appearance by a Rhode Island school in the history of the WD3 tourney.

5. Game of the Year: Union vs. Salisbury (March 26)
It's always fun when two top teams from different regions meet up with a leg-up in the postseason seeding process on the line. These two heavyweights won't disappoint. Will the Salisbury defense, without its backbone, goalie Sonja Stuart, from last year find a way to slow down Union's jitterbug attacker Kristin Joyce? Will the Dutchwomen be able to go to the Eastern Shore and handle the suffocating pressure the Sea Gulls always dish out? In the end, Union manages to pull off the mild upset and gain an early advantage in the race for the title.

Who's In:
(NOTE: the NEWLA has an AQ this year, so I'm estimating that there will be 16 Pool A bids, 5 Pool Bs and 6 Pool Cs for a total field of 27 - one more than last year)

* Adrian (16-2) - With a slightly tougher schedule than Claremont and the head-to-head victory on May 5 in SoCal, and the Bulldogs go dancing.
* Babson (12-4) - The Beavers improved their regular season schedule in hopes of a postseason payoff. The NEWMAC was never in doubt.
* Bridgewater St. (16-4) - The Bears are going to be a very annoying first-round draw for one of the New England powers. BSC has some talent out of the NEWLA.
* Buffalo State (13-3) - Meg Stevens' anger about me naming them SUNYAC champions in December subsides sometime in April (hopefully).
* Cabrini (13-6) - A huge upgrade in non-conference scheduling allows the Cavs to easily dispatch their closest CSAC foes.
* Catholic (14-3) - With expectations set higher than in the last couple of years, the Cardinals easily qualify.
* Christopher Newport (11-8) - The USA South gets an influx of fledgling programs (LaGrange, N.C. Wesleyan, Agnes Scott) to keep its AQ, but it still goes the Captains.
* Colby (15-2) - A couple of road losses mar the regular season, but the White Mules excel in the NESCAC tourney for a third consecutive year.
* Cortland (14-4) - Buffalo State clips the Red Dragons in the SUNYAC finals, but the record is still strong enough to edge out a fourth NESCAC.
* Drew (12-5) - Thought to perhaps be a one-hit wonder, the Rangers once again spook Catholic down the stretch.
* Eastern Conn. (11-7) - A dominant senior class helps the Warriors subdue Keene State in the conference finals (in OT - redemption from '09) after EConn loses to the Owls in the regular season.
* Elizabethtown (15-4) - After being stifled in the MAC finals last year, the Blue Jays finish the deal.
* Farmingdale (13-5) - Everyone returns for the Rams, as they coast through the Skyline to another AQ.
* Franklin & Marshall (13-4) - Losing the Centennial title to Gettysburg hurts, but Dips are easily in.
* Gettysburg (20-0) - Every opponent is a step behind at every turn, leaving nothing but Bullets.
* Hamilton (15-3) - After a stellar season, Union trips up Continentals in the Liberty championship.
* Kenyon (14-2) - The Lords (Ladies?) have quietly amassed a perfect team to lift the NCAC auto bid out from underneath Wooster.
* Middlebury (12-5) - The Panthers reign as NESCAC queens is over, but the strength of schedule is still there.
* Roger Williams (14-4) - See No. 4 above.
* Rowan (10-6) - The Profs avert the close shave of '09 with a couple of wins to spare.
* St. John Fisher (14-2) - The Cardinals were a force at the end of '09 and they translated that well to this spring, blunting Stevens in the E8.
* Salisbury (16-3) - A couple of stumbles in March eliminate the usually sterling record, but the Gulls are ready for May.
* Stevens (14-5) - The Ducks were a step behind St. John Fisher in the E8 all season, but the stronger schedule pays off.
* TCNJ (13-3) - The only question here is whether it's good enough for a Top Four seed.
* Union (14-4) - Brutal schedule has Dutchwomen fully prepared for Liberty tourney.
* Washington & Lee (15-4) - In this two-team league, it comes down to the Generals and Roanoke, and W&L has the goods this year.
* Williams (11-5) - Ephs edge out Tufts via head-to-head regular season win to snag a spot.

Who's Out:
* Claremont (14-3) - It came down to game against Adrian and the Athenas came up short.
* Roanoke (12-6) - Maroons couldn't find a way to win any of the big games on their tough schedule.
* William Smith (11-5) - Suffer the same plight as Roanoke.
* Tufts (11-6) - April 6 loss to Babson is devastating.
* Mary Washington (11-7) - Quest for a signature win to complement stiff scheduling never materializes.

NCAA Women's Division III Tournament
First Round - Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kenyon d. Adrian, 14-12
Franklin & Marshall d. Elizabethtown, 15-8
Washington & Lee d. Christopher Newport, 11-7
Salisbury d. Cabrini, 18-8
Drew d. Rowan, 9-8
Stevens d. Bridgewater St., 15-4
Babson d. Buffalo State, 12-10 (ot)
Williams d. Cortland, 15-10
Middlebury d. Roger Williams, 18-4
Hamilton d. Farmingdale, 17-7
St. John Fisher d. Eastern Conn, 18-16

Second Round - Saturday, May 15, 2010
Gettysburg d. Kenyon, 17-6
Franklin & Marshall d. Washington & Lee, 8-6 (at Gettysburg)
Salisbury d. Stevens, 15-6 (at Catholic)
Catholic d. Drew, 14-12
Colby d. Babson, 12-8
Williams d. Middlebury, 9-8 (at Colby)
Union d. Hamilton, 14-11 (at TCNJ)
TCNJ d. St. John Fisher, 19-13

Quarterfinals - Sunday, May 16, 2010
Gettysburg d. Franklin & Marshall, 7-6
Salisbury d. Catholic, 15-13
Colby d. Williams, 11-9
Union d. TCNJ, 10-9 (ot) 

Semifinals -
Friday, May 22, 2010 (at Gettysburg)
Gettysburg d. Salisbury, 11-8
Union d. Colby, 9-6

Finals - Saturday, May 23, 2010 (at Gettysburg)
Gettysburg d. Union, 12-10

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