April 8, 2011

NCAA Division II Women's Lacrosse Notebook: Regis Reigns in Inaugural WILA Season

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Goalie Erin Lewis and the Regis (Colo.) Rangers are the forerunners of the new Western Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association, a home base for Division II women's lacrosse in the West.

Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the reason for a team’s dramatic turnaround. For Denver’s Regis University (8-1), it’s pretty clear. The Rangers have 19 players this year. In the past they’ve had as few as 13.

“In practice you actually see the benefit,” said Regis coach Sarah Kellner. “We can play seven-on-seven, have more game-like situations. It used to be, 'Just imagine there are three defenders here.’”

The influx of talent has led to a very balanced attack. Five players -- Morgan Taylor, Danica Cutshall, Kelsi Goings, Erin Dybus and Christina Johnson -- have 20 or more points.

“That’s what’s really been nice,” Kellner said. “Not a superstar player. People take on the role that’s needed.”

An added bonus to Regis’ success is it comes during the inaugural season of the Western Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association, which Regis formed this season with second-year team Fort Lewis and startups Mesa State and Adams State. There won’t be a postseason tournament this year, but the Rangers should be favorites to take home some of the WILA’s postseason awards and the regular season title.

Regis formed in 2000, so it might take a few years for the other teams catch up. The Rangers welcomed Adams State to the neighborhood with a 19-3 road win last Saturday. A week earlier they beat Fort Lewis 15-5. Friday the Rangers host Mesa State, which they defeated 20-7 in March.

The WILA has allowed the Rangers to play a more localized schedule, quite a departure from 2008, which took the team to such far-off locales as Pfeiffer, Gannon, Adelphi and Dowling.

One long trip does remain. On April 15, Regis will head to Florida to take on No. 8 Rollins. It’s the third straight year the two schools have played. Rollins has won every meeting, most recently 18-10 in Colorado last year.

“It’s been nothing but motivation,’ Kellner said. “Our girls strive for high competition. We’re going to re-write history.”

South coming into focus

WILA teams will serve as the last two tune-ups for Rollins (9-3) before the independent makes its final case for an NCAA appearance. The Tars host Regis and Adams State (0-5) next week. Road trips to West Chester and Limestone await after.

Rollins' first chance to crack the South’s top three came last week at Lock Haven. The Tars gave Lock Haven its toughest game of the season, heading into halftime tied, before the Eagles pulled away for a 12-7 victory. It was Rollins’ first South region loss. If the Tars can pull off a win against Limestone or West Chester, they’ll have a good shot of claiming their first NCAA berth.

No. 2 Lock Haven (11-0), No. 4 Limestone (11-0) and No. 7 West Chester (9-1) currently have the inside track for the South’s three spots. West Chester’s only loss came at Limestone.

Lock Haven is in the midst of a PSAC gauntlet. The Eagles held off No. 11 Gannon (7-4-1), in a snow-shortened 12-8 win on Wednesday and host No. 9 Mercyhurst (8-3) and West Chester next. They’ll meet Limestone on April 23.

Limestone passed its last real conference test with an 11-7 victory over Queens (N.C.) on Saturday. Queens (7-6) and No. 15 Pfeiffer (8-5) loom in the Conference Carolinas tournament, and non-league games with Limestone and Rollins follow as threats to the unbeaten season.

Though Lock Haven looms, West Chester has survived the toughest part of its PSAC schedule. Its non-league slate is tougher. The Golden Rams have games at No. 10 Dowling (April 12) and No. 6 C.W. Post (April 19) before the home game against Rollins.

Those non-league, in-region games could prove crucial. West Chester and Lock Haven both have the PSAC tournament to worry about at the end of the season. Gannon, Mercyhurst, Bloomsburg, Slippery Rock and Indiana all are capable of spoiling championship dreams.

Gannon was close to a potential upset against Lock Haven on Wednesday before snow called the after 48 minutes due to unplayable field conditions. The Knights had cut a 12-3 deficit to 12-8 before the game was halted. Their final goal came from senior Mary Eshenour, her second of the game and 221st of her career, tying a school record.

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