February 12, 2014

#LMRanks: NCAA Division II Women's Breakdown - No. 4-3

by Mark Macyk| LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Senior Kathleen Conese and Le Moyne hope to break up the Long Island dominance of the Division II scene. (Greg Wall)

Previous: Breakdown No. 7-5

It’s an unfulfilled prophecy now lost to history, but, during the 2011 NCAA Division II women’s lacrosse Final Four, the world was supposed to end. A radio preacher had called for the rapture. There were billboards and everything. 

The apocalypse never actually happened, but the D-II landscape did shift forever on that weekend. Adelphi completed its third straight undefeated season with its third straight championship. The two teams the Panthers defeated that weekend, the last two victories of their dynasty, were Le Moyne and Limestone.

Then Joe Spallina moved on Stony Brook, taking several players with him, and the center of Division II shifted down the road to LIU Post. The Pioneers built their own dynasty and won the next two titles. Post ended Limestone’s season in last year’s NCAA championship game. Le Moyne was eliminated in the North Region finals by Post in 2012 and then in the North region semis by a re-merged Adelphi in 2013.

If Division I annexed Long Island, Le Moyne or Limestone would almost certainly have won a championship in the past few seasons. And if anyone is going to disrupt the Long Island hegemony, and bring the championship back onto the North American continent for the first time since 2008, it will very likely be one of the two teams below.

No. 4 Limestone

2013 Record: 20-2 (7-0 Conference Carolinas)

First game: Saturday vs. Young Harris

In 2013, Limestone won a program-record 20 games, and captured its eighth consecutive Conference Carolinas title before reaching the NCAA championship game for the second time in three years. The Saints lost just twice, by one to Le Moyne in March, and then by three to Post in the title game.

Like any team coming off a record-setting season, Limestone graduated a lot. But the Saints do have one more year from Sarah Oor, who, like her team, just put forward the best season in program history. Oor broke six Limestone records in 2013, including the all-time marks for career assists (158) and points (260), the latter of which she broke in the NCAA championship game.

Joining Oor on what should be one of the country’s most potent offensive units are midfielders Katie Farrell and Sam McCarrick, giving the Saints a trio that combined for 147 goals, 93 assists and 240 points in 2013. 

Thanks to their home in Gaffney, S.C., the Saints will best tested early and play eight games before St. Patrick’s Day. That should have them ready for when they close out March with key regional games against Lock Haven (March 20) and Rollins (March 29).

Top Returner- A Sarah Oor (Sr.)
Oor, an All-American playmaker from Uxbridge, Ontario, ranked third in Division II with 73 assists and fourth with 116 points. She also broke six Limestone program records in 2013, while becoming the first Saints female player ever to crack 100 points.

X-Factor: D Maia Czarnecki (Sr) 
In her second year since transferring from UConn, the second-team All-American started every game for the Saints, caused 33 turnovers and won the NCAA Elite 89 Award thanks to her 4.0 GPA.

No. 3 Le Moyne

2013 Record: 16-3 (11-1 Northeast-10)

First game: Feb. 26 at Roberts Wesleyan

Last year, Le Moyne dropped two of its first four games and then proceeded to rattle off 14 straight victories, most of those coming in Division II’s toughest conference, before falling in the North Region semifinals, to Adelphi. Adelphi went on to play LIU Post tougher than any team had all season, so it’s easy to forget that Le Moyne had defeated the Panthers twice that season, including a week earlier in the NE-10 title game.

When the Dolphins visit Adelphi on April 16, it should again be a likely NE-10 championship game preview, but they’ll be plenty tested before then. The NE-10 is good enough that Le Moyne could take its non-league schedule easy, but it won’t. On March 5, just three games into the season, the Dolphins will head to LIU Post for what should be the North Region’s early game of the year.

It seems crazy to think that the Dolphins, who have reached the playoffs every season since arriving in Division II before the 2011 season, could still improve, but they could. Le Moyne returns seven starters, including three All-Americans -- Kathleen Conese, Victoria Nies and Megan Collins -- to a team that ranked sixth in defense (7.00) and 10th in scoring margin (6.58) in 2013.

Top Returner: A Kathleen Conese (Sr.)
The first-team All-American racked, and Northeast-10 player of the year, up 41 goals, 15 assists, 35 ground balls and 19 caused turnovers for the Dolphins.

X-Factor: G Molly Marbut (Jr.)
Marbut highlighted her first season as a starter by making 13 saves in a NE-10 championship game victory over Adelphi, en route to being tournament MVP.

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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