April 4, 2012

Lochary: New Hampshire, Loyola Get Key Upset Wins

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com

Freshman Laura Puccia led all scorers with five goals and one assist in New Hampshire's win over nationally-ranked Vanderbilt.
© Greg Greene/New Hampshire

March went out like a lamb, producing only a pair of upsets in its final week. (Perhaps a sign that as more games are played, the rankings are based more on results that speculation?) Here are the details on the two teams that got an unexpected W.

New Hampshire 12, No. 12 Vanderbilt 11

Why It Matters: The Wildcats needed a quality win over a ranked team, and they got it against the Commodores. The America East conference is wide open this year. UMBC beat Albany, and lost a one-goal game to Boston University, which is currently at the top of league standings with a 2-0 America East record. Stony Brook defeated a ranked Johns Hopkins team and took Duke to the wire in March. There are plenty of squads gunning for the conference AQ. New Hampshire’s win over Vanderbilt showed they have the talent to compete with the best in the nation, and in its own conference. Plus, come tournament time, it’s always nice to have a win over a ranked out-of-conference opponent in your back pocket if you can’t get the league bid.

X Factor: Junior goalie Kathleen O’Keefe matched a career-high with 14 saves, but good shooting was also a key to victory. (Here’s a highlight video that illustrates that well, plus the rush-the-field celebration at the end of the game.)The Wildcats scored 12 goals on just 22 shots, 19 of which were on goal. Freshman Laura Puccia led all scorers with five goals on seven shots. She also had an assist.

Rankings Change: Vanderbilt, which has lost three of its last four, dropped three spots to No. 15. New Hampshire did not receive any votes in the IWLCA poll.

Up Next for New Hampshire: The Wildcats (3-6) couldn’t sustain momentum from their win over the Commodores (6-4), and got crushed by AE opponent Vermont, 18-8. (The Catamounts, another America East team that is on the verge of surprising someone, won the draw, 17-11.) New Hampshire will play at Boston University on Wednesday.

No. 15 Loyola 17 No. 6 Notre Dame 11

Why It Matters: The Irish were one of two undefeated teams in the country heading into the game, although they had just snuck by unranked Louisville and Rutgers in the week leading up to Loyola. It’s a Big East win for the Greyhounds, and seems to indicate that Loyola’s young attack is gelling and they’ve sorted out their draw control issues.

X Factor: Draws. Originally head coach Jen Adams had Cass Cursaro taking the draw in place of Taryn van Thof, who is out for the season with a knee injury. The results were mixed. Joanna Dalton, whose brother JP is a face-off specialist for Loyola’s men’s team, has stepped up.

 “We used to say draw controls win games. We’ve had to back track on that,” said Adams. “It’s something that’s very difficult to teach.”

Versus Notre Dame, Dalton won four draws herself and helped the Greyhounds to an 11-6 draw advantage in the second half, which was key to staving off a Notre Dame comeback. (The Irish won the draw, 11-2, in the first half.)

Rankings Change: Loyola rose two spots to No. 13. The Irish dropped from No. 6 to No. 9.

Up Next for Loyola: The Greyhounds travel to Louisville on Wednesday. The Cardinals are unranked, but have had close losses to Notre Dame and Vanderbilt, and are not to be overlooked.

Undefeated Watch

With Notre Dame’s loss to Loyola, the last team with a perfect record is Northwestern (10-0). The Wildcats have had a close call with Ohio State, needing a late rally and overtime to beat the Buckeyes, 13-12. Northwestern winning tons of lacrosse games is nothing new, of course, but the Wildcats haven’t had an undefeated season since 2009, when they won their fifth consecutive NCAA championship. No. 1 Northwestern will play at Penn State (8-3) on Friday. The Nittany Lions are currently ranked No. 12 in the country, but have not beaten their ALC foe since 2003. Last year, Northwestern won, 14-3.

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