April 25, 2013

SCAD Championship Gear Fits Well Once Again

by Mark Macyk LaxMagazine.com

The Savannah College of Art and Design, with the lacrosse staff watching, celebrates a second straight National Women's Lacrosse League championship.
© Monica Levin

The Savannah College of Art and Design entered this weekend’s NWLL championship with a target on its back. The Bees exited once again as champions. Everyone else exited wearing SCAD-designed artwork on their back.

It’s the second straight National Women's Lacrosse League championship for the Bees, who are skilled at everything from cradling and cutting to industrial design and weaving. When the NWLL went looking for a new T-shirt design this year, it unsurprisingly turned to the defending champs. 

SCAD senior Alexis Spaide didn’t even know her design had been chosen until she arrived at the NWLL championship in Belleville, Ill.

“I saw the hotel staff wearing it,” Spaide said.

And, of course, many of SCAD's opponents were also wearing the shirt. It was a unique weekend, with eight of the NWLL’s top teams together in one hotel. Everyone got along for the most part — half the teams even got together for a talent show one night — but it made for a few uneasy meals.

"The girls were really nice but it was also a little awkward, especially at breakfast," Spaide said. "We're all really tired, some smile and say 'Hi,' others give you dirty looks because they know who you are."

“It created a good atmosphere for lacrosse,” said SCAD coach Nichole Hannon. “It was a little intimidating at times too. It’s not just on the field you have to worry about your opponent. You’re sitting at breakfast staring at them, too.”

The Bees provided all the intimidation once play began. They beat Tennessee Wesleyan 13-8 in the quarterfinals, then Aquinas 15-10 in the semifinals and finally, Indiana Tech 19-12 in the championship. The title game was a rematch of last year’s, which SCAD won in overtime.

Sophomore Kayla Nelson broke her own NWLL championship game record with nine goals and was named MVP for the second straight year. Sophomore goalie Jenny Danko also broke her own championship record with 21 saves.

The Bees, it seems, are building a powerhouse.

“We’ve been kind of pegged as underdogs and art school kids at times,” Hannon said. “I think other teams are realizing, ‘Wow, they can play lacrosse too.’ It wasn’t a fluke. We’ve earned some respect.”

It was a respect that the current three-person senior class: Spaide, Britney Lukowski and Sophie Spivack, could not have imagined when they arrived on campus. Back then, SCAD wasn’t a part of a league and the idea of being national champions of any kind seemed far off.

And while they’re building a dynasty on the field, they’re building even cooler stuff off the field.

“SCAD opens your eyes to so much,” Lukowski said. “The chair you’re sitting in now, someone had to design. The T-Shirt you’re wearing, someone had to design. We go places and someone’s building a helicopter out of foam core, the next person’s making a dress, the next person’s programming a website. People who don’t know about SCAD ask what we do and when you tell them, their eyes go wide.”

SCAD’s roster lists players from 10 different states, but the core come from the lacrosse hub of Maryland. Many certainly could have played at schools with bigger names, but they’re happy with their choice.

“A lot of girls I know went to James Madison or Florida,” Spaide said. “I definitely don’t regret it. For them, lacrosse is your life. For us, it’s academics and lacrosse. I know when I get out of here, I won’t have to worry.”

Spaide and Lukowski are both from Ellicott City, Md., and learned of SCAD through their coach in the M and D lacrosse club. Now a coach in the organization herself, Lukowski is returning the favor, letting younger players in on the secrets of a SCAD education.

“You explain that we’re approximately Division II and we’ve won a championship,” Lukowski said. “That opens doors. It helps people who are used to following Duke and Maryland make sense of it. There are so many opportunities. You don’t have to go to the school that’s always on TV to play the sport you love." 

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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