May 22, 2011

Adelphi's Third Straight Title Never in Doubt

by Mark Macyk | | Live Blog Replay | Blog/Chat Center

Adelphi goalie Frankie Caridi is mobbed by teammates in celebration as dejected Limestone player Jessica Aguano walks off the field.

© Joe Rogate

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. -- Consider Joe Spallina the Godfather of Division II women's lacrosse. Four years ago he made his first recruiting class an offer it couldn't refuse.

"Coach promised me four national championships," said junior Tara Gangarossa.

A few seconds later junior Erica DeVito added: "I was also promised four national championships."

So far, so good on that offer. Adelphi captured its third straight NCAA Division II championship Sunday, defeating Limestone at home 17-4. It broke the record for largest margin of victory in the title game, set by Adelphi two years ago.

"Yeah," Spallina said, stone-faced, when asked if he had actually promised four titles. "Listen, I'll tell them, 'You're gonna have the opportunity to win four national championships.' That's something we said.

"Anyone who tells you before the season they don't want to win the national championship, that's not the person I am. That's not the way I was raised. I'm gonna try to win anything I can all the time."

To go back-to-back-to-back, Adelphi started behind the back, to behind the back, to inside the net. Moments after Demmianne Cook scored to put the Panthers up one, Elizabeth Fey went behind her back to Claire Petersen, who flipped it behind her back to Erica DeVito, who put in in the net and gave Adelphi a 2-0 lead.

"We do that every day in practice," Fey said. "If I went behind-the-back, I knew Claire was gonna do it. You have to."

Said Spallina: "If [Limestone] had any doubts coming into the game that we were in top form, it was confirmed at that point. They had a tough time regaining composure after that."

After going scoreless for the game's first five minutes, Adelphi (20-0) pulled away with five goals in four minutes and at one point three in 27 seconds.

The Panthers put the game into running time first with 24:10 remaining in the second half and for good with 13:29 remaining.

DeVito led the Panthers with four goals and three assists, Fey and Marissa Mills had four goals each, and Petersen had four assists. Chelsea Treat led Limestone with three goals.

Adelphi Frankie Caridi made six saves, as the Panthers held Limestone (18-2) to its lowest scoring output of the season.

Adelphi coach Joe Spallina signals that his promise to his first recruits is three-quarters fulfilled.

© Lee Weissman

"That kid's amazing," Spallina said. "There aren't many like that in any division or realm. My dad was saying yesterday, I coach with the [MLL's Long Island] Lizards, 'You gotta get her to play for the Lizards."

As for four straight for the Class of 2012, things look pretty good. The current juniors are back, the goalie will only be a sophomore and Spallina said next year's recruiting class is the best the program has ever had.

"I read something someone said yesterday that this was old news for Adelphi," Spallina said. "Let me tell you something: winning the national championship is never old news. It will never be old news.

"Every year you have a different group. This group to me is very special... It's a fun group that genuinely likes each other."

With Division II conquered, the conversation at one pointed turned toward Division I and whether the Panthers would try to make the leap.

"You have to go two rows back and one seat over to the left," Spallina said, indicating to ask Adelphi Director of Athletics Robert Hartwell. "Listen, you know me, if somebody called us right now to drive to Maryland, 'you can play Maryland right now,' maybe that's the stupidity of me or the competitive nature, we'd throw them in the bus, we'd be stopping at McDonalds..."

Then he paused and shifted the focus back to the truly special moment his team had just accomplished.

"I'll talk about that opportunity any day other than today," Spallina said. "Today the focus is we own Division II."

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