April 6, 2011

Stonehill Prepares for Adelphi, Crucial Northeast-10 Conference Tilt

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Stonehill sophomore Rebecca Moore has twice been named Northeast-10 Goalie of the Week this season.

Saturday's Northeast-10 clash between No. 1 Adelphi and visiting No. 5 Stonehill will be the final time two undefeated teams face off this year NCAA Division II women's lacrosse.

If history is any indication, it won't be the final time Stonehill and Adelphi play each other.

The teams squared off three times last season, with Adelphi winning all three games.

"It's huge and it always is for a million different reasons," said Stonehill coach Katie Conover. "For me, it's obviously a strategic win, if we win that means. For the girls, it's more emotional. They feel they have a little bit of payback."

Stonehill (9-0) has not defeated Adelphi (6-0) since its undefeated 2005 championship season, a span of seven games. The Skyhawks came close last year, falling by a goal in the NE-10 championship before again losing to Adelphi 15-10 a week later in the NCAA tournament.

Stonehill was a young team last year, and still is. The Skyhawks' backbone is their sophomore class, and they have only four seniors.

But Stonehill's early season slate, which has featured tough wins over ranked opponents Merrimack, Rollins and New Haven, should have the team ready for Saturday.

"We don't count our chickens before they're hatched, but we're very happy with our start," said Conover, who took over at her alma mater in 2008 when Michael Daly left for Division I New Hampshire. "I'm sure every team will say this, but we really put in time in the offseason. This is my fourth year, and it almost feels like it's coming to a culmination. We set certain goals every day, and we're just a lot more in-tune in year four."

The key for the Skyhawks has been defense. Only Merrimack has reached double figures against them. Their 5.44 goals allowed per game ranks lowest in the nation. That strength comes from experience. Three seniors -- Emily Kerwin, Devin O'Leary and Christine Lanigan -- anchor Stonehill's back line. Sophomore Rebecca Moore started in goal as a freshman, and was just named the NE-10's Goalkeeper of the Week for the second time.

To beat Adelphi, Stonehill will need contributions across the board. Adelphi junior Claire Petersen, the reigning NE-10 Player of the Year, leads Division II with 6.2 assists and 8.4 points per game. Her classmate Erica DeVito is 13th in points per game. Freshman goalie Frankie Caridi leads the country in save percentage. The Panthers are first in goals per game and third in goals allowed per game.

No. 12 Merrimack (6-4) headed to Adelphi last week fresh off a big win over New Haven and with wins against Dowling and close losses to Stonehill and Limestone boosting its resume. Adelphi won 25-5.

"If that didn't send a statement I don't know what did," Conover said. "I think Merrimack's an unbelievable team... It doesn't surprise me though. "

Stonehill will look to its offense to try to surprise Adelphi. Senior Hannah Anderson (29 goals, 14 assists) has been the team's go-to scorer. Conover pointed to a pair of younger players, sophomore Kelsey Reilly and freshman Kelsey Shanahan as the engines for the offense.

Said Conover: "They don't have the points, but without them it's night and day."

Last season, the Skyhawks had three shots at Adelphi. With the addition of Le Moyne, which nearly beat Adelphi, to the NE-10 this year, it's not a guarantee. Merrimack, New Haven, Bentley and Southern New Hampshire all exist as potential traps toward a rematch.

"It's the most competitive D-II league in the country," Conover said. "We're proud of that."

The league's competiveness makes Saturday's tilt all the more crucial.

"Adelphi is just the fastest group of kids on the planet," Conover said. "Every single team has weaknesses. That's our job as a coaching staff to find it."

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