February 10, 2014

#LMRanks: NCAA Division II Women's Breakdown - No. 8-10

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

The teams in the lower half of Division II’s Top 10 will fight a battle on two fronts this season. While the three squads below will have plenty of opportunities to push their way into the Top 5 and the NCAA title conversation, they’ll also have to hold off the advances of the ever-growing list of Top 10 contenders behind them.

No. 10 Pfeiffer

2013 Record: 14-3 (5-1 Conference Carolinas)

Pfeiffer was one of those teams knocking on the Top 10’s door as recently as last February. The Falcons proceeded to have their best season ever, and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time. But there are changes at the top in Misenheimer, N.C. Krissy Bentolila took over coaching duties for Dawn Easley in mid-January. Bentolila, who most recently served as an assistant at Kennesaw St., knows the program well - she graduated from Pfeiffer in 2009.

Despite the changes, the coaches still predict the Falcons, who return the Conference Carolinas’ second-leading scorer Ashleigh Kassab, to finish in second place behind Limestone. We’ll know quickly where Pfieffer stands in the South - the Falcons host Rollins on Saturday.

Top Returner - D Katherine Athens (Sr.)
The 2013 Conference Carolinas defender of the year had 44 ground balls, 26 caused turnovers and 79 draw controls. Athens is Pfeiffer’s all-time leader in caused turnovers for a career (101) and single-season (41 in 2012.)

X-Factor - Coaching
One of D-II’s fastest-rising programs will go through a transition in 2014. As of early January, Pfeiffer still hadn’t found a replacement for coach Dawn Easley, who headed to Division I Campbell in December. Krissy Bentollia was named coach on Jan. 14. The 2009 Pfeiffer graduate, who ranks third in program history in points and assists, has coached in Conference Carolinas before, at Queens.

No. 9. Dowling

2013 Record: 12-3 (6-1 East Coast Conference)

Dowling was likely the last team left out of the North Region playoffs last year and is a good bet to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011. The Lions return 11 players, including Samantha Stavish who was recently named the ECC’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Dowling has won two of the last three ECC titles and finished just five points behind two-time defending national champion LIU Post in the conference's preseason coaches' poll.

Top Returner - A Jackie Andersen (Jr.)
Andersen runs Dowling’s attack and piled up 56 goals and 34 assists (91 points, 12th in Division II), en route to earning first-team All-ECC honors in 2013.

X-Factor - M Samantha Stavish (Sr.)
The defending ECC Defender of the Year has great speed and runs Dowling’s midfield. In 2013 she piled up 29 turnovers, 21 grounds balls, 53 draw controls, while scoring 41 goals.

No. 8 Stonehill

2013 Record: 13-7 (10-2 Northeast-10)

Stonehill, which has won two NCAA titles, made the NCAA tournament last season and should be even better in 2014. The Skyhawks return 10 starters, including captains Lauren Bonagura and Katherine McDonough. Stonehill opens the season in Florida where it will face Rollins and Florida Southern as a warmup to their tough NE-10 slate. Few teams can control their own destiny just by winning the way the Skyhawks can.

Top Returner - D Katherine McDonough (Sr.)
The second-team All-NE 10 defender totaled 22 ground balls, nine draw controls and 13 caused turnovers while leading a unite that ranked fifth in the highly-competitive NE-10 in scoring defense.

X-Factor - M Kelsey Shannahan (Sr.)
The Skyhawks graduated their top three scorers. Shannahan, who put up 43 goals and 15 assists in 2013, shoud help ease those losses.

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks.

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