April 26, 2012

Savannah College of Art & Design Wins NWLL Championship

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Kayla Nelson scored the NWLL championship winning goal for SCAD in triple overtime against Indiana Tech on Saturday. The NWLL was formed last season by NAIA women's lacrosse schools to honor its teams and players.
© Savannah College of Art & Design 

The women's lacrosse team at the Savannah College of Art & Design is removing preconceived notions about art students, one masterpiece at a time.

"We've played against teams this year that say 'Oh you're gonna let a bunch of art students beat us?'" said SCAD coach Nichole Hannon. "It's kind of offensive, but our girls are like 'Yeah. Watch us beat you.' They were great athletes that wanted the education. We're lucky they go to SCAD where they can do both."

And do both well. SCAD now has another selling point for lacrosse-minded art students. Along with being the only art school to offer the sport, the Savannah College of Art & Design is now a national champion. The Bees defeated Indiana Tech, 18-17, in overtime Saturday in Rome, Ga., to capture their first National Women's Lacrosse League title.

"To be honest with you, I closed my eyes a few times," Hannon said. "A couple of times where I'm like 'I can't watch.' They came to play that day. Every timeout, halftime, they never had any doubt. Never once felt defeated. They knew it was our game to win."

Kayla Nelson won it for SCAD (15-4) with a goal in triple overtime. Freshman goalie Jenny Danko made her 15th save of the night on a free position earlier in the frame and Britney Lukowski backed up the shot and ran it downfield to set up Nelson's game-winner.

The NWLL was formed last season when the NAIA women's lacrosse schools got together to honor their teams with a postseason tournament and awards. The NAIA does not currently recognize the sport. SCAD joined the league this season and finished in second place. Indiana Tech (14-5), the defending champs, defeated SCAD, 20-14, in the regular season.

There could be more titles in SCAD's future. The Bees placed four freshmen on the All-NWLL Team: Danko, Nelson, who was named the tournament MVP, defender Shaina Levin, and Charlotte Cutts, who had 62 goals and 22 assists this year and was named NWLL Player of the Year.

Hannon was named Coach of the Year. She also was new to SCAD. Hannon moved to Savannah last summer after two seasons coaching at Division III Wittenberg in Ohio. The Savannah job opened the day she resigned from Wittenberg.

"I said 'This is fate,'" she said. "'Now I just have to get them to hire me.'"

SCAD clearly made the right choice. But would Hannon regret her choice? How would she adjust to coaching a team full of artists?

"I knew nothing about art coming in," Hannon said. "That was different. I laughed. I said 'I know how to draw Xs and Os and I can paint on the field.' I have grown to appreciate what they do. It's really exciting. The seniors alone, the things they're going to do. I don't know if I could go back. Art students are so special for so many reasons. It's been refreshing."

They're more than just painters. The Bees' roster lists such wide-ranging fields of study as graphic design, photography, fashion marketing and management, and interactive design and game development.

And, yeah, they're pretty good at drawing too. Take Senior Day. Most teams make some signs. The really ambitious ones might decorate the bleachers with streamers. The Bees use the campus as their canvas.

"These girls had sidewalk chalk drawing masterpieces in the parking lots," Hannon said. "Working in our logo and the bee. Things I could never imagine drawing."

An unconventional team that also played an unconventional schedule. The Bees took on plenty of Division II teams including Lenoir-Rhyne, St. Michaels and Tiffin. Expect more D-II teams in the future. Savannah could become a prime Spring Break spot for teams looking for a warm weather experience without the Florida price tag.

With its freshmen core and a crop of recruits coming, visiting teams should also expect plenty of competition from the NWLL champs.

"They make it easy for me because they do such a great job," Hannon said. "I've never been part of a championship. It was very much deserved. It was so exciting. And what a way to do it."

Not bad for a bunch of art students.

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