May 7, 2009

Champ Change: Hamilton Has Its Edge Back

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Coyne Archive

Kate Marek scored the game-winner over Union in the Liberty League championship game. She wasn't able to play one final game at home, but Marek and her teammates were able to do something more important - regain the fire that propelled them to the national championship game last year.
© John Hubbard

The moment she walked in the meeting room, Hamilton coach Patty Kloidt could tell her team was steaming.

Kloidt wasn't surprised.

Considering how big an egg the Continentals laid days before, when they were obliterated by Union, 15-4 in a game that decided who would host the Liberty League tournament - an objective her seniors desperately wanted to achieve - the coach knew her players would be ill-tempered.

"They wanted to host the Liberty League tournament so badly, and they lost their composure," said Kloidt. "We ended up playing the worst game I've seen us play in about three years."

While the loss meant the senior class, which had been so important during the Continentals surprising run to the women's Division III national championship last spring, would never play at home again, it provided an opening for Kloidt to refocus the team.

"They were so angry they lost that game that I needed to get them out of that mentality of dwelling on the game," she said. "I wanted to switch our focus on what we were going to do. How are we going to fix it and prepare to win?

"We came up with a plan and they said okay, and we never talked about the game again. We talked about what we were going to do instead."

She didn't vocalize it, but, frankly, it was nice to see some edginess return to the Continentals. Kloidt knew she had the talent to play with anyone in the country, but there was something missing for most of the season.

"I don't want to say they got bored, but last year they played with a killer instinct and a chip on their shoulder because they wanted to avenge some losses from the year before," she said. "This year, we didn't really have a chip on our shoulder, nor did we have any revenge to seek out on anybody. They were just kind of trotting along, and that caught up with us because it let some teams back into games. We didn't put our foot on the throat and keep it there."

Hamilton was still a top tier program. It suffered a 12-9 loss to Salisbury in the third game of the season, but that was the only setback prior to the Union defeat. The wins were still coming in bunches - nine straight at one point - but the nature of the victories was different.

"We got into some really close games with Cortland and William Smith and we really had to dig deep during the course of those games and figure out a way to win because we didn't keep our foot on the pedal," said Kloidt. "Last year's team wouldn't have let up on the gas at all."

With the Union defeat still fresh in their collective minds, Hamilton traveled to Schenectady for the Liberty League tournament last weekend as a team reborn. The Continentals overwhelmed William Smith in the semifinals, 14-8, setting up a rematch with the Dutchwomen in the finals.

In what may go down as the game of the year, the two heavyweights slugged it out, but after 60 minutes they were still tied at three goals apiece. Senior All-American Kate Marek managed to break through in the first overtime session, giving Hamilton the 4-3 triumph and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

"They never lost their composure and they never strayed from the game plan," said Kloidt. "That's the Hamilton lacrosse that I know. I was really proud."

Proud and relieved.

After coasting through most of the season, Kloidt knows the champs have rekindled the ferocity that made them unstoppable last year.

"We definitely got a glimpse of that this weekend and it came at a good time, obviously, going into the tournament," said Kloidt, who will face Williams on Saturday at Colby. "This is when we want to be playing our best lacrosse. I'm excited to go to Maine and it's going to be a fun weekend.

Saturday's Games in Three Sentences...
Babson (15-2) at Salisbury (17-1), 11:30 a.m.
Don't brush off Babson too quickly because they have the pedigree and the scorers - Anna Collins (74g) and Kaitlyn Pettengill (57g) - to keep up with the Sea Gulls. The question will be whether they can possess the ball long enough in the face of Salisbury's speedy middies and suffocating defense. I don't think they will: Salisbury 18, Babson 12.

Catholic (16-3) vs. Mary Washington (14-8), 2:30 p.m. (at Salisbury)
Neither of these teams looked terribly impressive in the first round contests: Catholic edged Messiah in overtime while Mary Washington needed 40 minutes to subdue Christopher Newport. CUA needs to put the "Shooter Tutor" on the cages and improve their efficiency because they are a better team than they showed against the Falcons. Still, the Cardinals beat Mary Wash, 21-9 earlier this year and those kind of defeats are tough to flip: Catholic 15, Mary Washington 11.

Cortland (14-6) at TCNJ (15-2), 11:30 a.m.
Amanda Caloia made 17 saves in the first meeting for Cortland and the Red Dragons still lost 16-10, so the visitors need to make some fundamental changes. They can start by narrowing the draw control deficit (19-8 for TCNJ in the first meeting) while also cleaning up their clears (16-for-23). Cortland is better than the first time these two teams met, but not that much better: TCNJ 12, Cortland 8.

Roanoke (16-4) vs. Gettysburg (14-3), 2:30 p.m. (at TCNJ)
The Maroons don't always win pretty or win big, but they do win - the first round victory over Cabrini is a testament to that. Other than its Salisbury game, which it lost 23-13, this will be the toughest game of the season for Roanoke. Despite playing second fiddle to F&M, the Bullets still have title aspirations, and ‘Noke won't do much to dissuade them: Gettysburg 15, Roanoke 12.

Union (15-3) at Franklin & Marshall (17-1), 11:30 a.m.
The bottom half of the bracket is filled with tantalizing games, and this one leads the bill, especially considering the two teams played a classic on March 23 with F&M winning, 11-10. Other than draw controls, which the Dutchwomen dominated, all of the stats were close to even. Both teams are better now, but the Dips are still slightly ahead playing at home: F&M 8, Union 6.

St. John Fisher (11-6) vs. Tufts (15-2), 2:30 p.m. (at F&M)
It took Fisher a while to get going against Wooster, but once the Cardinals did, they managed to rack up 17 goals against the Scots. Meanwhile, Tufts scored - and allowed - a lot of goals in a 22-15 triumph over Drew, meaning we're in store for another shootout. This might be the last game where the Jumbos can have a porous defense and not have it cost them the game: Tufts 19, St. John Fisher 15.

Middlebury (10-5) at Colby (16-1), 11:30 a.m.
After beating Middlebury twice on neutral fields, Colby will get the chance to make it a three-spot on their home turf as they host one of the four NCAA regionals. If the Panthers are looking for a way to beat the White Mules, they can start by taming Kate Sheridan, who has four goals and six assists in the previous two meetings. That's a tall order against Sheridan, who is the front-runner for national player of the year: Colby 14, Middlebury 13.

Williams (13-6) at Hamilton (14-2), 2:30 p.m. (at Colby)
The Ephs are trying to work themselves back into the national picture after a five-year hiatus, and if they want to make it all the way back this year they'll have to beat Hamilton. In many ways, these teams are very similar - tough, physical and hard-working - so expect the game to be tight down the stretch. But as the story notes above, the Continentals are back to their old selves, giving them the edge: Hamilton 10, Williams 9.

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