April 12, 2012

Adelphi Embraces New Identity, Gets Back to Winning

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Freshmen Alexa Froccaro (above) and Danielle Jaycox have combined for 40 goals and eight assists this season for Adelphi, which underwent a coaching change in the offseason and some soul-searching in the early season.
© Lee Weissman

No one was going to feel bad for Adelphi.

It didn't matter that four of its best players, three top recruits and its head coach headed to Division I Stony Brook this summer. This is Adelphi we're talking about. The Panthers entered 2012 with three straight national championships, a 25-game winning streak and one loss since 2008. Their bench players would be stars almost anywhere else.

"When you're at Adelphi it's like you're beating the odds," said Rob Grella, who became the program's new head coach in July. "Almost everyone wants you to lose. Like they're tired of Adelphi always winning."

But the players who chose to stay at Adelphi faced an uncertain future. It was a program in flux. As Grella put it: "We didn't exactly know who we were."

"It's still not easy," he said. "It's not just a coaching change. We lost a lot of players. There was a lot of drama. A lot of friendships lost."

Yet when Adelphi finally lost, 11-10, last month against Le Moyne, the rest of Division II did not take to the streets in celebration. The result was too close. The Panthers, it seemed, might just know who they are after all.

That loss sparked something in Adelphi (10-1), which has gone on to win five straight games by a combined score of 111-41.

"In some sense I think a lot of people felt relieved after that game," Grella said. "Obviously we'd had that streak going for a while. Like I tell the girls, a loss isn't always a bad thing. I think this team learned a lot from that loss and has marched forward and said 'Hey, we don't want to feel like that again.'"

They haven't. The current winning streak has included big wins over No. 13 Saint Anselm, 22-12, and No. 6 Stonehill, 19-7. The Stonehill game was the one that truly showed who Adelphi still is. The Sky Hawks (9-2) came in riding a seven-game winning streak and had knocked off No. 7 New Haven a week earlier.

"We were pretty fired up about that game," Grella said. "We knew everyone thought it would be a toss up."

For the past few seasons Adelphi ruled Division II with a freelancing style predicated on scoring, scoring and more scoring. That would be difficult to implement this year with three of its former top scorers breaking records at Stony Brook.

Adelphi slowed down its playing style but, through all the changes, the Panthers are doing what they always do: score goals. They lead Division II with 19.7 goals per game.

That scoring has come from familiar places and new faces.

Erica Devito (41-30-71) and Devan Crimi (32-16-48) were key pieces in last year's championship run and are one and two on the team in points. Marissa Mills has followed up her 40-goal 2011 campaign with 29 goals and four assists.

Freshmen Alexa Froccaro and Danielle Jaycox have combined for 40 goals and eight assists. Junior Sara Sangiorgio had eight goals all of last season, she has 35 so far this year. Junior Meg Brown already has 25 goals, topping her total of 22 from a year ago.

"Everyone's jumped on," Grella said. "Before that we were going on talent. A couple of players making great plays. Now it's not about just one player."

Adelphi's next big test comes April 21 when the Panthers begin a stretch of three ranked teams in seven days at No. 8 Bentley and No. 7 New Haven and home for No. 4 C.W. Post.

Survive that and the Northeast-10 tournament, where Adelphi should get another shot at Le Moyne, looms. Le Moyne has lost just three games since moving to Division II last season, each to Adelphi. Once in last year's regular season, again in last year's NE-10 finals and again in the North region finals.

Said Grella: "My guess is we're hoping to get two more chances at them."

Mark Macyk has covered Division II and III women’s lacrosse for Lacrosse Magazine since 2011. He can be contacted at markmacyk@gmail.com.

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