February 28, 2013

WD2 Notebook: Pfeiffer Finally Ready for True Home Game

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Pfeiffer junior captain Katherine Athens and the Falcons are off to a 3-0 start, including a win over No. 15 Florida Southern.
© Pfeiffer

A big win in February — a win that could pay off in May — makes it tempting for a team to get ahead of itself. But, even though it knocked off No. 15 Florida Southern 11-7 on Tuesday, Pfeiffer's women's lacrosse team isn't thinking about what waits down the road.

"At this point it's nice to beat a ranked team," Pfeiffer coach Dawn Easley said. "But we're just working on one game at a time."

After all, it's still February. And, while the Falcons have twice worn their home jerseys, they've yet to play a game at home.

It hasn't exactly rained every day, but several downpours in North Carolina haven't provided enough of a break for fields to dry out. Sometimes the ground freezes at night, making evaporation even more unlikely.

The Falcons (3-0) have worked around the problem.

Last week, Pfeiffer beat Converse 18-6 at a local community college. On Tuesday, they beat Florida Southern on the home field of conference opponent Queens. Saturday, they'll finally get an on-campus home game, against St. Leo.

Recent practices have been spent playing on every available dry spot on campus. They've also broken the monotony up with swimming workouts, film sessions, and days off. All the while, the coaching staff has kept spirits up with inspirational quotes and small rewards: Stars given for conditioning, stars given for off the field efforts, stars for captains. Little recognitions that remind a team what it's playing for.

After all, it's often a series of small victories that add up to a successful season.

"It's nice to have little rewards and goals because it's a long season from January to the end," Easley said. "Sometimes looking too far ahead can get overwhelming."

Especially when you're a team like Pfeiffer, perennially on the verge of an NCAA tournament appearance. Division II has expanded its playoff structure. This could be the year.

Beating Florida Southern (1-1) was the first step. Sarah Daly had four goals and an assist and Shannon Bonnel had three goals and one assist to lead the Falcons in that one. Pfeiffer outshot Florida Southern 28-15 and won the ground ball battle 39-23. Now the Falcons have a South Region win over a ranked opponent.

The next step would be winning Conference Carolinas, a task no team other than Limestone has accomplished in five years. The conference season won't really get going until the end of March, but Pfeiffer will prepare itself with some pretty stiff Northern competition until then. Second-ranked Le Moyne comes to town on Wednesday. A showdown with No. 8 New Haven awaits 10 days later.

"Obviously our goal is always to win," Easley said. "But we look at it as an opportunity to challenge ourselves, and prove to ourselves, and prove to others, that we can play with a top team."

That proof would go a long way come May. The expanded playoffs creates more room for Pfeiffer, but Division II's larger numbers mean more competition from teams that didn't exist a few years ago.

"The expansion of Division II has been unreal," Easley said. "It's grown so fast, there's been times when it feels like it hard to keep up. In some ways it makes it harder and in some ways it makes it more fun. There's more competition. It's made me a better coach."

Early-Season Game of the Year

Shorter 11, Savannah College of Art & Design 10

North Carolina beat Northwestern on Friday, but six days earlier Shorter became the first women's team of the year to defeat a defending national champ, when it handed NAIA champion, Savannah College of Art and Design, its only loss of the season.

Junior Bianca Rojas was the star of the day, tying the game at eight with 12 seconds remaining in regulation and winning it 19 seconds into the second sudden death overtime.

Rojas led Shorter, which trailed 5-0 at halftime and 8-2 early in the second half, with three goals and Taylor Moody made 12 saves. Charlotte Waiters had five goals and one assist for SCAD and Jennifer Danko made 15 saves.

Interestingly, the last time SCAD played at Shorter it also went to overtime. That was the Bees 18-17 victory over Indiana Tech in last year's NAIA championship game.

SCAD had won six straight and 12 out of 13. The Bees bounced back with a pair of wins over Newberry, 12-7, and Davenport, 16-2. Shorter lost 18-0 to burgeoning D-II contender Lindenwood the next time out, then defeated Emmanuel, 18-6.

Looking Ahead

Le Moyne at Limestone, Monday

Limestone (3-0) has blown past its early competition winning three straight by a combined score of 60-9. It gets tougher this week. Thursday's home game against No. 14 Mercyhurst kicks off a stretch of six ranked opponents in seven games. The highest-ranked foe is No. 2 Le Moyne, the North Region runner-up for the past two seasons. Le Moyne (1-0) crushed Roberts Wesleyan, 16-3, in its season debut on Saturday.

This will be the fist meeting between the two teams since Le Moyne reclassified as Division II for the 2011 season.

It's also a matchup between 2012's two stingiest defenses. Le Moyne led Division II with 6.74 goals against last year, Limestone was right behind at 6.95. Rashelle McLellan, a second-team All-American in 2011, has returned to the goal for Limestone after appearing in just six games last season. Le Moyne is breaking in a new goalie, sophomore Molly Marbut. Marbut made 11 saves in the opener.

Game Balls

Alisha Catalino, Mercyhurst
Catalino had six goals and one assist as Mercyhurst backed up its Top 15 ranking with a thorough 18-10 victory at Queens (N.C.) on Monday. The Lakers face a stiffer test Thursday afternoon, when they head to Limestone.

Mackenzie Miller, Belmont Abbey
Miller, a freshman, scored seven goals in the Crusaders' 23-3 victory over Conference Carolinas foe Lees-McRae on Wednesday. Four days earlier, Miller scored five goals in an 18-6 victory over Mount Olive. Belmont Abbey is 3-0 for the first time in program history.

Sarah Oor, Limestone
Oor racked up one goal and seven assists in last Thursday's 19-5 home-opener win for the Saints. It was the second time in three games that Oor finished with one goal and seven assists.


Two of Division II's best, LIU-Post junior Jackie Sileo and West Chester senior Tori Dugan were named to the Tewaarton Award Watch List last week. The pair squared off in last season's D-II championship, where Sileo's record-breaking, six-goal, three-assist performance powered Post to a 17-16 victory. Dugan led WCU with five goals and two assists in that game. LIU-Post opens its season on Friday against St. Anselm. West Chester hosts Fort Lewis on March 7... Lindenwood has won its first two games by a combined score of 35-3. The Lions are upping the ante in their second Division II season and will play Rollins and Adelphi in April. Expect a Top 15 appearance sooner rather than later...Shepherd is undefeated in the early season, winning three games by a combined score score of 68-8. Senior Nicole Ruane has compiled 15 goals and five assists for the Rams, who head to Notre Dame (Ohio) on Friday.

Mark Macyk has covered NCAA 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