May 3, 2009

White Mules Win Second NESCAC Crown

from press releases

MEDFORD, Mass. - The Colby College women's lacrosse team hoisted the New England Small College Athletic Conference trophy again Sunday and will head back to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the third time in the last four years.

Champions again of arguably the best conference in the country in Division III women's lacrosse.

Colby scored the final three goals of the game to pull out a 12-10 win over fifth-seeded Williams College in the league title game Sunday at Tufts University. The third-ranked Mules have won 15 straight games in moving to 16-1 overall and clinched an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney for winning the conference title. The NCAA pairings will be announced either Sunday night or Monday and the Mules could have an opportunity to host a regional.

Middlebury College had won the first seven NESCAC women's lacrosse titles when the league started the playoff system in the 2001 season. Colby broke that run with the 2008 championship and now has another title. The women's lacrosse program also becomes the first Colby team to win two NESCAC titles since the playoff system was started. Volleyball won in 2005 and women's crew took the league title during their NCAA championship season of 2003.

"Last year we were always fighting back, always the underdog," Colby head coach Karen MacCrate Henning said. "We were more mature and focused this year. We always had different people stepping up on different days."

It was a record breaking and tying day for second-seeded Colby. Amy Campbell broke the NESCAC championship record for goals in a tournament with 13 after scoring three more against Williams. She had a single-game tourney record of seven against Wesleyan University in an opening round game and scored three in a 17-12 semifinal win over Middlebury on Saturday. Campbell, a junior, went over 100 career points and has 85 goals and 16 assists for 101 points.

"Amy makes thing happen for us just because of her speed and hustle," MacCrate Henning said. "She's so successful with things off the ball, whether it's defending and getting back or coming up with the draws."

Kate Sheridan, Colby's soon-to-be four-time All-American, broke the NESCAC championship record for assists in a tourney with 11 (old record was nine). She had five against Wesleyan, two in the Middlebury win, and dished four against the Ephs.

Sheridan also tied Colby's career assist record of 113, a mark she shares for now with Ally King '03. Sheridan is nearing 300 career points with 181 goals and 113 assists for 294 points and leads the Mules this year with 34 goals and 51 assists for 85 points. Sheridan needs three more assists to break the Colby single-season assist record of 53.

Sheridan had 29 assists combined in her first two years at Colby and finished with 33 a year ago. Her goal scoring is down this year from last year's single-season record of 58 because of her unselfish play.

"That's the beauty of Kate. She just wants to continue to learn more about the game," MacCrate Henning said. "If people didn't think she had that part (assists) of the game, she'll go out and show them that she does."

Colby appeared it would have an easy time of it Sunday when Becky Julian and Heather Nickerson scored the opening two goals of the game. Both players did not participate in the regular season meeting against Williams because of ice hockey commitments. Williams cut the lead to 2-1, but the Mules made it 4-1 about 15 minutes into the half on goals by Nickerson and Campbell.

Williams, though, battled back to take an 8-6 lead at halftime. The Ephs scored four straight goals in the final 2:49 of play to turn a 6-4 deficit into a lead.

"I thought we were taken out of our game and we let them get in our heads a bit," MacCrate Henning said. "You can't let everything that doesn't go your way bring you down. You get back in position and get it back. We got back in our mode, the way we play during the second half."

MacCrate Henning made a change in goal at halftime, bringing in Keryn Meierdiercks to play the final 30 minutes. She allowed two goals in the second half and was credited with two saves.

Julian and Nickerson were once again the combination to start the second half. Julian tallied just 18 seconds into play and Nickerson scored off a pass from Sheridan with 28:24 remaining to tie the game at 8-8. Nickerson finished with a game-high four goals and reached 80 goals for her career.

"Heather plays all over the field for us," MacCrate Henning said. "The bigger the challenge, the more fun she is having out there. She is one of those players who needs a challenge and I think that's why you see her come up so big in games like these."

The teams traded goals over the next 15 to 20 minutes. Williams took its final lead at 10-9 when Britt Spackman tallied with 13:40 to play for a 10-9 lead. The Mules scored three times in the final 7:19 to pull out the win. Kathleen Kramer tied it on a free-position shot with 7:19 to play and Caroline Atwater got the eventual game-winning goal with 5:27 to play off a dish from Sheridan. Nickerson scored from Sheridan with 43 seconds left for a Colby insurance goal.

Julian finished with the two goals and also added a game-high six draw controls. Kramer also scored twice and Lauren Strazzula had assists on Colby's first two goals of the game. MacCrate Henning also gave credit to defender Mary Clare Snediker for a number of key blocked passes. Snediker loomed large a year after missing the tourney because of a knee injury.

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