February 11, 2014

#LMRanks: NCAA Division II Women's Breakdown - No. 5-7

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Can Liz Wilson and West Chester improve on last year's 15-4 record? (Lee Weissman)

Previous: Breakdown No. 10-8

After reaching two of the past three NCAA Division II title games, Limestone enters 2014 as the favorite in the South Region. The three teams listed below can be considered contenders No. 1 A, B and C for the regional crown and are the early favorites to reach the tournament.

No. 7 West Chester

2013 Record: (15-4, 10-1 PSAC)

First Game: March 16, at Queens

As last season wore on it became obvious that, despite the additional playoff team added to each region, there was going to be one team getting severely snubbed. It ended up being West Chester. The Rams won the PSAC tournament, still undoubtedly the toughest task in the South Region, and yet, thanks to some tough non-league losses, did not hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

West Chester lost just four times last year, all to NCAA tournament teams. It was its pair of losses to New York teams, LIU Post and Le Moyne, that likely did the Rams in. While New York is located in the North Region, it is attached to the Keystone State and thus counted when factoring in WCU’s postseason resume. The New York teams are off the schedule this year and the Rams will rely on the built-in toughness of their PSAC slate. If they can run the table against Lock Haven and Indiana (Pa.) it will be very tough to deny them a postseason berth.

West Chester graduated a ton of talent, including program legend Tori Dugan, and will enter 2014 with one of its youngest squads ever. But with a tough defense, and knowing that coach Ginny Martino always brings in some of Pennsylvania’s best players, the Rams, who came one goal short of an NCAA title in 2012, will again be in the conversation.

Top Returner - GK, Jess Henderson (Sr.): 
West Chester’s Henderson, who attended West Chester Henderson High School, put up a 7.66 goals against average and was named third-team All-PSAC in 2013.

X-Factor - D Liz Wilson, Sr.
After graduating a ton of offensive firepower, the Golden Rams will need another big season from their defense in 2013. Wilson was second-team all-PSAC and had 34 ground balls and 23 caused turnovers in 2013.

No. 6. Rollins

2013 Record: 16-2

First game: Defeated Tampa, 21-7, on Sunday

Rollins was two minutes away from its first NCAA championship game, before Limestone rallied and won a thriller in overtime. The Tars graduated an all-star team and if they are to reach a third-straight South Region title game in 2014, they’ll do so without some program-defining players. Luckily, they welcome their best recruiting class ever.

A lacrosse conference in the Sunshine State is still a year away, so Rollins will once again boost its NCAA tournament chances with a brutal non-league schedule. With a take-on-anyone approach and Florida's warm climate enticing teams on Spring Break, the Tars will face Pfeiffer, Stonehill, Bentley, IUP and Limestone before March ends.

They’re already getting started. Behind a career-high five goals from Tyler Thomas, the Tars welcomed Florida newcomer Tampa to the NCAA with a 21-7 victory on Sunday.

Top Returner - A Caroline Lamere (Sr.):
The Tars graduated plenty on offense but return local legend Lamere, the quarterback of their offense, who led the team with 54 points (26 goals, 18 assists) in 2013.

X-Factor: GK Elyse De Lisle (Sr.): 
The freelancing goalie ranked 10th in Division II with a 9.07 goals against average in 2013. Coach Dennis Short said she came into the fall in the best shape he’s ever seen.

No. 5 Lock Haven

2013 Record: 15-3 (11-0 PSAC)

First game: March 7 at Tiffin

Propelled by the return of two young stars from injury, Lock Haven bounced back from a playoff-less 2012 by winning 15 games for the seventh time in eight years. They fell in the South Region semifinals by one goal to Rollins.

This year the Eagles, who return one of the PSAC’s top scoring tandems, Chelsea Borrino and Jessica Pandolf, should again be among Division II’s best. In 2013, despite playing one of D2’s toughest schedules, LHU ranked seventh in scoring margin (7.9).

The Eagles open up the season with five consecutive road games, including back-to-back games at Limestone on March 20 and IUP on March 25 that should have  bearing on where they place in the South Region.

Top Returner: M, Jessica Pandolf, Lock Haven (R-Jr.-) 
After missing her sophomore season to an injury, the speedy Pandolf returned in a big way in 2013, leading the PSAC, and ranking 11th in Division II, with 64 goals. 

X-Factor: GK Chrissy Baffuto, (R-So)-
Baffuto made an immediate impact after missing most of her freshmen season with a knee injury, leading the PSAC with a 6.75 goals against average and guiding the Eagles to the NCAA tournament.

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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