May 20, 2011

Three Storylines of the Division II Final Four

by Mark Macyk |

Behind all that offensive firepower, Adelphi goalie Frankie Caridi leads Division II with a .581 save percentage.

© Scott McCall

After winning national titles in Gettysburg, Pa. and Salem, Va., the past two seasons, the Adelphi women's lacrosse team will have a chance to three-peat this weekend on its home field. Don't expect the Panthers to go easy on their guests. Adelphi has lost just once on its home field since 2007.

The challengers have impressive resumes. West Chester is making its ninth trip to the semifinals in 11 years and finished runner-up to Adelphi last season. Limestone is seeking its first championship game appearance, but was undefeated until a few weeks ago. Le Moyne is new to Division II, but came closer to beating Adelphi than any other team this year.

1. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor hail can slow Adelphi.

Some folks are predicting the world to end on Saturday. Even an apocalyptic late-May snowstorm might not be enough to slow down Adelphi, which has held the No. 1 spot in the country all season.

Adelphi looked beatable only once, when it broke a late tie with three straight goals and held on to win at Le Moyne 11-9 on March 23. The win established Le Moyne as the No. 1 contender for Adelphi's crown, but also said much about Adelphi.

There were three inches of snow on the ground in Syracuse that day, slowing down Adelphi's ultra-fast, "Greatest Show on Turf" offense. The Panthers had to slug it out and showed they can win when scoring only 11 goals.

So if there is a storm of biblical proportions Saturday, the Panthers can draw on their snow game. If the weather's clear, like it was two weeks ago in the Northeast-10 championship game, they can draw on that too. Adelphi won its rematch with Le Moyne 17-11 and opened with 9-1 run.

For the record, they're calling for weather in the low 70s and a 30-percent chance of rain this weekend in Garden City, N.Y.

2. Two teams alike in accolades.

Adelphi nearly swept the Northeast-10 conference awards, with Claire Petersen winning Player of the Year, Kate Ciaci Defender of the Year, Frankie Caridi Goaltender of the year and Joe Spallina taking home Coach of the Year honors.

Petersen finished with 53 goals and 116 assists, a whopping 49 points better than the next-highest scorer in Division II. Two other top-10 scorers, Le Moyne's Brittany Brigandi (82 goals, 18 assists, sixth in points) and Adelphi's Erica DeVito (70 goals, 25 assists, eighth in points) will be on the field Saturday. Petersen, DeVito and Brigandi were also the three all-NE-10 attackers. DeVito had seven goals the last time these two teams met en route to winning MVP of the NE-10 tournament. Brigandi had three goals in the NE-10 finals and scored five times in Le Moyne's first-round NCAA tournament game, an 18-9 win over Dowling.

Nine of the 12 spots on the the Northeast-10's first team ended up going to players from Adelphj or Le Moyne. Adelphi led all teams in offense (21.61 points per game) and defense (5.67 points per game). Le Moyne ranked second with 5.79 goals against per game and fourth with 16.89 goals per game. Adelphi's Caridi leads Division II with a .581 save percantage. Le Moyne's Kelly Fucillo ranks fifth with .506.

3. The South hopes to rise.

The South champion has been a sacrificial lamb to Adelphi for the past few seasons, but that could change this year. Both Limestone and West Chester have defenses capable of shutting down the North's formidable scorers.

Limestone's Rashelle McLellan is second in Division II in save percentage, stopping 54.9 percent of the shots she faces. Lock Haven's defense allows the third-fewest goals per game in Division II. Defender Erin Growney was named first team all-conference.

West Chester's defense is rolling lately. MacKenzie O'Keefe made three saves in the second half to help the Golden Rams hold on for a one-goal win at Lock Haven in last week's South region semifinal. Defender Andrea Smith leads the team with 44 ground balls and was named third-team all-PSAC.

On offense, Racquel Prager leads the way for Limestone. The first-team all-conference player is 22nd in Division II with 3.12 goals per game. Midfielder Cheslea Treat (31 goals, three assists) was also named first team all-conference.

West Chester's Shannon Hayes (18 goals, 51 assists) and Claire Grimwood (52 goals, 13 assists) both rank in Division II's top 50 in points. Grimwood was named to the PSAC's first team, Hayes to the third.

Prager led the way the first time these two teams met, scoring four goals in Limestone's 16-10 victory, its sixth straight to open the season. That streak would reach 17 before Limestone finally lost, 13-9, to Rollins two weeks ago.

The Limestone game was West Chester's second of the season and came at a time when it was still cold enough in the Delaware Valley to keep the Golden Rams inside. They've turned things around since then and defeated Rollins 15-11 on April 23.

The game will be closer than the first meeting. The proof? Before losing to Rollins, Limestone beat Lock Haven 7-6, the same team West Chester played to three one-goal results this year.

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