March 6, 2014

WD2 Notebook: Pfeiffer's Leadership Tree Grows

by Mark Macyk | | Twitter

Ashleigh Kasssab leads the Falcons with 14 goals and three assists this season. (Sean Meyers)

They don't offer it as a major, but aspiring womens lacrosse coaches should know that leadership is something you can certainly study at Pfeiffer.

From Lyndsey Boswell and Kristina Llanes at Division I High Point and Kennesaw St. to Rob Bickerstaff at Division III Greensboro, former Falcons are coaching programs all across the south.

So when Dawn Easley, who had helmed her alma mater for five years, moved on to run the team at Division I Campbell this December, it left quite the vacancy at Pfeiffer. 

Because there is one job that has always gone to a Pfeiffer alum. That of Falcons’ head coach.

Enter Krissy Bentolila, Class of 2009 and third in program history in assists (69) and points (172). At the time, Bentolila was happily employed on Llanes’ staff at Kennesaw St. But taking the job was an easy choice.

“There’s definitely something special about Pfeiffer,” Bentolila said. “When I came back for the job I said, ‘If there’s one thing I can do it’s sell Pfeiffer.’”

The future Pfeiffer alums -- the current Falcons players -- have been doing a good job selling Pfeiffer themselves. They're 3-1 so far this season and check in at No. 13 in this week's LM Rankings. Last year, Bentolila looked on with pride from behind enemy lines, as an assistant coach at Queens, while the Falcons shocked the Division II world and opened the season with 12 straight wins before reaching its first NCAA tournament.

“I was so proud to watch them make these huge upsets week after week,” Bentolila said. “Pfeiffer is one of those teams that everyone always say ‘It’s a fluke. It’s a fluke.’ It was great to see them turning things upside down.”

When Bentoiila arrived on campus the January goal was not to turn anything upside down, but rather to keep everything going in the same direction. She jumped right in, met with the team and had practice later that day.

“My biggest focus was just getting the girls on board and earning their trust,” Bentolila said. “Focus on their goals and see where they’re headed.I have not re-invented the lacrosse wheel at Pfeiffer by any means. We just keep going in this positive motion.”

Two months later, the Falcons are still going and are off to another great start. On Saturday, they bounced back from last week’s loss to Queens by defeating Regis, 10-9, on a late goal from Sarah Daly.

Making the transition easier has been the presence of Katherine Athens, who has 25 draw controls, 13 ground balls and 13 caused turnovers this year. The defending Conference Carolinas Defender of the Year, and Pfeiffers’ all-time leader in caused turnovers, is the Falcons’ lone captain. She also has that skill most common to Pfeiffer alums, leadership, in abundance.

“She is by far the single best leader I have ever worked with,” Bentolila said. “She’s the real deal. She’s so good at motivating others, they look up to her so much. On the field she’s tough as nails.”

That toughness will come in handy. Next up for the Falcons is No. 11 Lindenwood, a team looking to become this year's Pfeiffer.  With Athens on defense, Ashleigh Kassab (14 goals, three assists) and Daly (five goals, six assists) leading the offense, and one of their own patrolling the sidelines, you can bet it’s a challenge the Falcons will be prepared for.

“I think the girls kind of speak for themselves,” Bentoilla said. “We’re going to keep trying to surprise people.”

Three on Tewaaraton Watch List

Seniors Jackie Sileo of LIU Post and Devan Crimi of Adelphi, and Lock Haven junior Jessica Pandolf were named the Tewaaraton Award watch list earlier this week.

Sileo, who is approaching the all-Division point record and might just have a shot at winning the whole thing, opened her season with three goals and two assists in the Pioneers’ 14-7 victory over Bloomsburg. She then chipped in one goal and four assists in LIU’s statement-making, 13-5 victory over Le Moyne on Wednesday.

Crimi, who has starred since her freshman year and led the Panthers in points as a junior, scored five goals in AU’s 13-11 victory at Lindenwood on Saturday.

Pandolf, whose Eagles get their season started on Friday at Tiffin, returned from an injury last season to record 64 goals.

Looking Ahead

Regis (1-2) at No. 4 Limestone (4-0), Friday, 3:30 p.m.

Both teams have had an interesting time in the Carolinas this week. 

Limestone has been at home in Gaffney, S.C., where it just beat Mount Olive and Lees-McRae by a combined score of 43-0.

Regis, meanwhile,has been boosting its South Region profile with a successful trip through the region. The Rangers lost to Pfeiffer by a goal on Saturday and then took down Queens, 11-6, on Monday. Before they head back to Denver, the Rangers will go hunting for the South’s biggest prize, the Saints.

Limestone comes in as an overwhelming favorite, but this will be an interesting score to watch and a good test to see where both teams are at in the region.

Game Balls

Katie Farrell , Limestone: The senior from Brooks, Ga., exploded for eight goals and two assists in the Saints’ 21-0 victory over Mount Olive on Saturday. She added four more in Monday’s 22-0 thrashing of Lees-McRae as limestone posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time in program history.

Katie Hannan, LIU Post: The senior out of Saratoga Springs (N.Y.) entered the season in an uneviable position, taking over in the cage for graduated program legend, and former IWLCA Goalie of the Year, Dominique Mosca. It looks Hannan, and the Pioneers, are going to be just fine. On Wednesday, Hannan made 14 saves against Le Moyne - always one of Division II’s top offenses -- to keep the game close before LIU exploded for a 13-5 victory over No. 3 Le Moyne.

Margaret Sharp, St. Thomas Aquinas: One game after pairing five goals with five assists in STAC’s 17-4 victory over Georgian Court, the senior from Suffern, N.Y., put up five goals and three assists in an 18-2 victory over Nyack.  


No. 5 Lock Haven (Friday at Tiffin), No. 9 Stonehill (Tuesday at Rollins) and No. 14 IUP (Monday vs. Lindenwood) all get their seasons started this week, leaving West Chester (vs. Queens, March 15) as the lone Top 15 team still waiting to get going.

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