May 17, 2009

Rookie Coach Leads Dips to D-III Title

by John Montgomery | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Franklin and Marshall players celebrate their 11-10, overtime win over Salisbury in the NCAA Division III women's lacrosse championship game.

© Brendan Bush

SALEM, Va. -- Sunday night was a time of celebration in Virginia for the Franklin & Marshall women's lacrosse team -- and not just because college president John Fry was on hand to present diplomas to the team's graduating seniors who had missed Saturday's commencement in Lancaster, Pa.

The Diplomats (21-2) knocked off Salisbury University 11-10 in overtime at Donald J. Kerr Stadium at Roanoke College, capturing the NCAA Division III title for the second time in three years.

The victory capped a weekend of revenge for the Diplomats. Saturday's 16-13 semifinal victory over Hamilton College was a significant turnabout in that the Continentals had beaten F&M 13-6 in Salem for the 2008 crown. This year's championship win also more than offset the Diplomats' only blemish on the 2009 season, a 10-9 loss against Salisbury March 29 in front of the biggest crowd of the season. Thus in a period of less than 24 hours, F&M defeated the last two teams to beat them in a 12-month span.    

F&M had strong presence Sunday from its senior leaders -- four goals from Jen Pritchard and two apiece from Shannon Summers and Sarah Meisenberg -- but perhaps the two most important goals came from underclassmen. Freshman midfielder Cat Serpe tied the game at 10 with 1:02 left in regulation and junior attacker Blake Hargest scored what turned out to be the game-winner 2:20 into overtime.

"This is absolutely unbelievable," said first-year Diplomat coach Lauren Paul. "The game went back and forth just like I thought it would, but when we got the goal in overtime, I think everyone [on our team] knew we were going to win the championship."

Franklin & Marshall outshot Salisbury 34-23, including 2-1 in overtime.  

The game featured seven ties and six lead changes, with no team ever leading by more than two goals. Each team had a string of three consecutive goals, Salisbury's coming in the final three minutes of the first half and Franklin & Marshall's coming in the first five minutes of the second.

Hargest, who scored four times in the semifinal win Saturday, was limited to one goal and one assist Sunday, but her lone goal was the decisive one. "I take a little bit of credit for it," she said, "but Sarah (Meisenberg) dodged four people. She drew the girl to get me open. I just happened to get lucky. I'm an attacker. I'm supposed to make goals."

Serpe's goal came because "I had a wide open lane and took it."

Salisbury completed its season 20-2, but there were no tears shed by the Sea Gulls. "We had an awesome season; there are no regrets," said senior midfielder Courtney Sorenson, who scored three times Sunday to finish the year with 26 goals. "We gave it all we got."

"We have something to be proud of; it's a good feeling," said senior goalie Sonja Stuart, who had 10 saves, many of them coming under intense pressure. "I thought the Salisbury goalie played out of her mind today," said Paul.

"When we were down by one goal [in overtime] we did exactly what we've been doing in practice situations" as far as pressing F&M's offense, said Sea Gulls coach Jim Nestor. "Our defense in general pleased me. I'm very proud."

Franklin & Marshall shut out Salisbury's two most prolific scorers, midfielder Robyn Bishop (61 goals on the season) and attacker Beth Rhodey (54). "We were marking them," Paul said.      

The Diplomats also beat Salisbury 11-8 in the 2007 title game.

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