May 20, 2011

West Chester Can Upend South's Top Seed

by Mark Macyk |

Shannon Hayes and the West Chester women's lacrosse team meet Limestone in the NCAA semifinals at Adelphi on Saturday at 2 p.m. The winner of that game will play Adelphi or Le Moyne for the Division II national championship.

© Barbara Johnston

When West Chester won 9-8 at Lock Haven in the first round of the NCAA tournament last Saturday, it marked the fourth straight one-goal result in the rivalry. Fifth if the you count the one-goal scrimmage they played to before the season.

It was the third official meeting this season between the two schools and the third time the road school won. Lock Haven rolled into West Chester two weeks earlier and left with a 10-9 victory and the PSAC championship. That left plenty of time for West Chester to dwell on what happened.

"Any time you play for a conference championship and you don't walk away with the trophy, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth," said West Chester coach Ginny Martino. "For them to walk into our home field and take the trophy with them, I don't know how to say it, we definitely had motivation."

The motivation was obvious. Claire Grimwood opened the game with two straight goals and West Chester never trailed, holding Lock Haven to its second-lowest scoring output of the season.

"Our defensive unit won that game for us," Martino said. "There was not one kid who was slacking off. It was a family effort back there from top to bottom. The whole unit did a great job."

The Golden Rams came out focused from the start. That may have been another advantage of playing on the road. It's a three and a half hour bus ride from West Chester to Lock Haven, a long enough trip to clear your mind of any distractions.

"Maybe that road journey gave us an opportunity to mentally prepare and focus," Martino said. "You don't have as many chances at home. Student-athletes have to deal with finals. I don't know. But I'm glad we're on the road [this weekend]."

West Chester has another bus ride ahead of it, to Long Island where it will meet Limestone in the South region final Saturday at Adelphi. Limestone beat West Chester in Virginia 16-10 on March 10. It was the sixth game of the year for Limestone, the second for West Chester. Much has changed since then.

"We weren't ready," Martino said. "We had just gotten out of the gym; they were in-season form. It took us a little while to be outside and air out the ball, to put together strategy. That was very early for us to play a southern team."

Limestone was the first ranked opponent in a Rams slate that ended up featuring 13 games against top-15 foes. Martino said it was the toughest schedule she can remember playing at West Chester.

"We've played everyone from Post to Limestone to Dowling to Rollins, Lock Haven and all of our conference teams," Martino said. "Some really tough teams. We battled through. We're certainly a different team in all aspects. Our attack is different. Our mental state is different. We are really looking forward to getting another shot at [Limestone]."

To beat Limestone, it will likely take another big day from the Golden Ram defense. Limestone averages just 6.33 goals against, fourth-fewest in Division II. If West Chester advances, one of the top two defenses in Division II, Adelphi or Le Moyne await.

Luckily for the Golden Rams, mid-May road trips are nothing new. This will be West Chester's ninth semifinal trip in 11 seasons. Three years ago they won it all in Houston. Grimwood had three goals and four assists as a freshmen in that one. Last year they watched in Gettysburg as Adelphi walked off as champions. Grimwood had two goals in last year's championship; current sophomore Lauren Glassey had three.

"Having that experience behind us is definitely a key," Martino said. "Even though it's a year ago, it's a long summer when you go into a national championship and lose. It's not enough to get there anymore. They want to walk away with the big trophy."

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