April 25, 2013

WD2 Notebook: Baffuto, Pandolf Healed; Lock Haven is Locked In

by Mark Macyk LaxMagazine.m

Lock Haven's Jessica Pandolf (left) and Chrissy Baffuto (right) shared the unfortunate bond of severe knee injuries, but are now healthy and part of a Lock Haven team that's won 10 straight games.
© Lock Haven

During a preseason scrimmage in Florida last year, Lock Haven goalie Chrissy Baffuto heard that sound no athlete ever wants to hear. Sophomore Jessica Pandolf, who knew a thing or two about knee injuries, was the first person at her side.

“I heard the pop,” Baffuto said. “I kept saying ‘My knee, my knee.’ Jess ran over instantly, said, ‘You’re gonna be fine,’ and helped me off the field.”

Baffuto’s freshman season was over before it began thanks to a partially-torn ACL and a strained LCL. Before that Spring Break trip ended, Pandolf would also be helped off the field, her right ACL fully torn after an attempted shot at Rollins. She too missed the rest of the season and Lock Haven missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.

Thirteen months later, Pandolf and Baffuto are both back on the field and Lock Haven is locked in. The Eagles rank No. 6 in the latest IWLCA rankings and, more importantly for their NCAA tournament aspirations, No. 3 in the latest regional rankings.

Last week the Eagles pulled off their two biggest wins of the year, taking down arch-rival West Chester, 11-6, on Saturday and up-and-coming Indiana (Pa.), 10-9, on Tuesday. The victory over IUP clinched a PSAC regular season title and guaranteed home field throughout the tournament for LHU.

Baffuto and Pandolf played big roles in both wins.

Against West Chester, Baffuto put up a career-high 10 saves (five off free positions) and held West Chester, which came in averaging 17.31 goals per game, to its lowest scoring output since 2010.

“Honestly Chrissy was on a whole different level,” Pandolf said. “At halftime I tried to explain that to her. I was just so excited that she was playing so great.”

She followed that up with nine saves against IUP, which was held in single-digits for just the second time all year.

Pandolf provided offensive firepower in both games, scoring a game-high three goals in the IUP win after putting up four goals against West Chester. Through 14 games, Pandolf leads the Eagles, and ranks second in the PSAC, with 48 goals.  

“It’s great to have a girl like Jess, especially at center,” Baffuto said. “She’ll always be there on defense. You can rely on her to get a goal. She’s someone you can rely on for everything.”

Baffuto was also able to rely on Pandolf during the long rehab process. Pandolf had been through it before; she injured her left knee during her junior year of high school. When they were far enough along they went on runs together.

“It was good to have Jess,” Baffuto said. “Of course, I don’t want her to be injured, but she was a great player to have me get through it mentally. It was just a really great support system.”

“We helped each other a lot,” Pandolf added.

Both players were back on the field when the preseason begun and have played every game since.

“I’d been waiting to play for so long,” Baffuto said. “I couldn’t wait to get out there. I don’t think anything could have upset me.”

The Eagles have won 10 straight since losing to Limestone in March and seem primed for a return to the NCAA tournament.

Last year, even with their projected leading scorer and starting goalie out for the year, the Eagles were deep enough to make an NCAA tournament run. They likely would have been dancing if the NCAA tournament had four teams, as it will this year. 

With Pandolf and Baffuto joining returning talent like Chelsea Borrino, who leads the PSAC with 48 assists, and Kelly Hamilton, who has 45 goals, the Eagles have more depth than ever.

They’ll likely have to get past IUP or West Chester again in the PSAC, not to mention Mercyhurst, the team that stunned them in last year’s PSAC playoffs, but the Eagles remain undaunted. 

“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” Pandolf said. “We go into every game the same way.”

Game of Last Week

Queens 12, Pfeiffer 11

Jenna Ready and Brittany Barnwell scored back-to-back goals late in the third quarter to put Queens up 12-10 and a last-second goal by Sarah Daly wasn’t enough for Pfeiffer as Queens pulled of a shocker in the Conference Carolinas semifinals.

What it means for Queens: A feather in the Royals’ cap and the satisfaction of playing the season’s biggest spoiler. It’s also something to build on. Pfeiffer was the Conference Carolinas team thrust onto the national stage this year. No reason that Queens can’t be next. In the short-term it meant a trip the Conference Carolinas championship game, which Limestone won 21-9.

What it means for Pfeiffer: It certainly doesn’t help. The perception was the Falcons needed to beat Limestone to make the NCAA tournament, and they didn’t even get a shot at the Saints. But recent struggles by West Chester have Pfeiffer still firmly in the postseason discussion. Unfortunately for Pfeiffer, two of its best wins, against Le Moyne (which looks even better a month and a half later) and New Haven, can’t count for NCAAs. The Falcons have a head-to-head victory over Florida Southern on their resume, and if the season ended today look good based on the NCAA Regional Rankings, but, with Florida Southern, West Chester and IUP all still playing, all the Falcons can do is wait.

Looking Ahead

No. 9 Florida Southern at No. 3 Rollins, Saturday 7 p.m.

Pfeiffer will surely be paying attention to the results of this one, the first of two real chances for Florida Southern to boost its postseason resume. Chance No. 2 comes next week at No. 2 Limestone.

The Mocs, currently ranked outside of the South’s Top 6, will be heavy underdogs in each contest but will have the advantage of desperation in both. Limestone and Rollins should both be in the tournament and are playing only for postseason positioning at this point. Depending on what happens in the PSAC, FSC could play itself into the postseason conversation with a win in one of these.

Hurting the Mocs is the head-to-head loss to Pfeiffer (and the fact that their big win over potential North Region playoff team, Stonehill, in March can’t count). But the Mocs have only lost to Rollins and Pfeiffer, so a win against a team like Limestone could go a long way.

Pfeiffer has the advantage over Florida Southern in head-to-head results, but if the Mocs can score an upset in these next 10 days they’ll be looking good based on wins vs. common opponents (Limestone) and results vs. teams with records above .750 (Rollins and Limestone).

At the very least, a victory by Florida Southern in one of these games makes a really tough decision for the committee even tougher.

Of course, a deep PSAC run by either West Chester or IUP could render both of these irrelevant. IUP and Pfeiffer actually played in March, but the game was called due to unplayable conditions late in the first half, with Pfeiffer leading by one. A result from that game would have made things immensely easier for the winner, and the committee.

Game Balls

Kayla Green, Stonehill: Green had two assists and five goals, including two during a late rally that saw the Sky Hawks erase a late three-goal deficit and avoid a potentially devastating upset, in a 16-15 come-from-behind victory at Saint Anselm on Tuesday. On Saturday, Green, a senior from Londonderry, N.H., had five goals in a 16-12 victory over No. 11 Dowling, a win that should prove a big boost to Stonehill’s NCAA hopes. No. 9 Stonehill is the first member of the 13-team Northeast-10 to finish its season and the Sky Hawks will wait and see how the rest of the weekend shakes out to learn what position they’ll enter the NE-10 tournament in. Stonehill finishes 10-2 in league play and sits a half game behind Adelphi and Le Moyne.

Allyson Fritts, Grand Valley State: Fritts, a senior from Howell, Mich., had seven goals, two assists, four caused turnovers, three ground balls and two draw controls as the Lakers increased their GLIAC lead with a 20-7 victory over Notre Dame (Ohio) on Sunday. Two days earlier, Fritts had three goals and one assist in a 19-0 victory over Walsh. GVSU is a perfect 6-0 in GLIAC play, with two conference games remaining before the tournament.

Sarah Lankton, Findlay: Lankton had a jaw-dropping eight goals, six assists, 13 ground balls, 12 draw controls and five caused turnovers in the Oilers’ 23-3 win over Alderson-Broaddus on Sunday. As of Tuesday, the freshman from Lankton, Ind., ranks fifth in Division II in goals (63), first in ground balls (74) and first in draw controls (107). 


Only one conference tournament will be decided this weekend: the CACC. All signs point to South Division No. 1 Philadelphia, which is unbeaten in league play, facing North Division No. 1 Georgian Court, the tournament’s host. Philadelphia defeated Georgian Court, 12-10, on Sunday the closest game the Rams have faced since league play began... The NE-10, PSAC and GLIAC tournaments all get underway next week. Keep track at our Division II Clearinghouse.

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