April 26, 2012

WD2 Notebook: Lock Haven Responds to Unexpected Challenges

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Kayliegh Johnson was one of five different Lock Haven players to score in the second half of a 12-9 win over West Chester that gave the Eagles its first PSAC regular sesaon title since 2009.
© Lock Haven 

At least Julius Caesar got a warning.

Then again, Lock Haven didn't need a soothsayer to know the Ides of March would be rough. The Eagles faced Florida Southern, Rollins, Limestone, Millersville, Merrimack and C.W. Post during a brutal mid-March stretch of six games in 12 days. When the dust cleared on March 24, their record stood at 2-4.

While the Eagles knew the schedule would be tough, they didn't realize they'd lose four key players to injury before that run was over. They lost two for the entire season, including Jessica Pandolf, who was second on the team with 37 goals last season and had six points in the 2012 season-opener against Florida Southern. The forecast for the rest of the spring was cloudy.

"There were a lot of cards stacked against us," said Lock Haven coach Kristen Selvage. "It's one thing to fill one role or two roles, but to lose four important players? We had to go back to the drawing board and kind of re-train players that we didn't expect to have in these roles. They were all about it... Now here we are winning games."

Winning a lot of games. Lock Haven (11-4) ended March like a lion, with back-to-back wins over East Stroudsburg and Bloomsburg. That started a nine-game winning streak through April, which came to a head with a 12-9 victory over West Chester on Friday.

"It's a credit to how strong our team really is," Selvage said. "The team never once thought they didn't deserve to be in the top-5. We believed even though we lost these players it wasn't the end of us."

With the West Chester win, the Eagles clinched their first PSAC regular season title since 2009. The key to that victory was defense. Lock Haven became the first team to hold WCU (13-2) to single-digits all season.

"We talked about not fouling and being consistent," Selvage said. "One defender, Clare Gaeng, came up with the ball more times than I could count. We only let them score one goal in the entire second half. That turned the game around for us."

West Chester led, 8-6, at halftime but five different Lock Haven players scored the game's final five goals. Emily Cilla, Kayleigh Johnson, Elyse Fisher, Gwen Buss and Chelsea Borrino led the team with two goals each.

"We've taught that there's no leading attacker on this offense," Selvage said. "Even going against West Chester you can't wait for your best player. You have to take whoever's open in front of the goal. Look for every player on attack."

Lock Haven's balanced scoring and ability to bounce back from the injuries is evidence of its incredible depth. The Eagles fielded their largest team ever this season with 29 players listed on the roster.

Fisher and Cilla have stepped up on the midfield. Fisher scored 30 goals last season and already has 50 this year. Cilla has upped her scoring from seven goals to 20.

"It's just changing roles," Selvage said. "The attack did survive because we play a team-orientated philosophy."

Lock Haven wraps up its regular season Thursday at IUP (10-5).

Southern Bracketology

It seems Rollins and Limestone have been locked into the South region's first two playoff spots since Leap Day. The final spot, now a two-team race between West Chester and Lock Haven, likely won't be decided until the PSAC Championship.

Both teams have compelling arguments. Lock Haven lost to Limestone and Rollins, but played them both during March at a time when LHU had played one game and Limestone and Rollins each had played eight. West Chester did not play Rollins or Limestone but has wins over two of the top-5 teams in the country, Le Moyne and C.W. Post, which count as in-region because New York borders Pennsylvania.

Let's say Lock Haven wins the rest of its games and West Chester does the same and the two teams meet in the PSAC finals. Lock Haven would host. If LHU wins -- no easy task, last season West Chester beat Lock Haven by one in the regular season, Lock Haven beat West Chester by one in the PSAC finals and then West Chester beat Lock Haven by one in the South region semifinals -- who would make the tournament?

In this scenario Lock Haven would have defeated West Chester twice. The Eagles have in-region losses to Limestone, Rollins and Millersville plus C.W. Post. West Chester has lost to Lock Haven and Bloomsburg.

"I think it's going to make a very long discussion," Selvage said. "I don't envy [the selection committee]. That's not an easy decision to make."

In the latest NCAA regional rankings West Chester comes in at No. 3, one spot ahead of Lock Haven.

West Chester Knocks off C.W. Post

West Chester bounced back from its Lock Haven loss, and boosted its playoff chances, with an 18-15 victory over C.W. Post on Tuesday. Jamie Dolan scored four goals during a 7-0 second-half run that allowed the Golden Rams to pull away.

WCU wraps up its regular season Thursday at Kutztown.

Limestone Captures Carolinas

Limestone claimed its fifth consecutive Conference Carolinas championship with a 19-6 win over Belmont Abbey on Sunday. The Saints (16-1) have won 14 straight since losing to Rollins at the end of February.

Limestone wraps up its regular season with a non-league game against Catawba on Friday and will almost certainly host the South region semifinal as the No. 2 seed.

Big Weekend Up North

A couple of big games on the schedule this weekend could shake up the North's playoff race. Adelphi (14-1) hosts C.W. Post (12-2) on Saturday. Le Moyne (14-1) hosts Stonehill (13-3) the same day. Currently the NCAA regional rankings have Le Moyne, C.W. Post and Adelphi, in that order, as its top three with Stonehill and New Haven as the next two. A win over Le Moyne would go a long way toward Stonehill earning the final playoff spot, but ultimately the North won't be decided until the NE-10 tournament. New Haven (12-4) plays Saint Anselm (8-7) on Saturday.

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

comments powered by Disqus

More Headlines