March 1, 2011

After Successful Road Trip, W&L Hosts Gauntlet

by Mark Macyk | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Senior Wilton Megargel amassed 17 points during W&L's three-game, 1,800-mile road trip.

Washington and Lee's women's lacrosse team had plenty of time to bond over the past week. About 1,800 miles can do that.

The Generals (3-0), No. 14 in the latest IWLCA Division III poll, played three road games in seven days, from Northern Virginia to Atlanta to Tennessee to Maryland and back. The team survived the trip undefeated, sandwiching two one-goal victories, 18-17 over No. 16 Mary Washington and 10-9 over Stevenson, around a 21-13 win at Sewanee.

"We racked up something like 40 hours of bus time this week," said W&L head coach Brooke Diamond.

In downing local rival Mary Washington (2-2) on Feb. 20, the Generals became the first Division III team to defeat a ranked opponent. Gettysburg became the second, four days later, beating Mary Washington, 17-6. Against Mary Washington, W&L senior Wilton Megargel scored the game-winner with 36 seconds remaining in the first overtime. The Generals had watched a 17-14 lead disappear over the final 16 minutes of regulation. Mary Washington's All-American, Catherine Kennedy, scored with 3:56 remaining to force the extra frame.

"Definitely not a pretty performance," Diamond said. "That was our first game, and we have a lot of first years playing. It was a chance for them to get their feet wet... It's a major rivalry between our schools. It doesn't matter who's the better team."

Half the Generals' roster is made up of first-year players, and Diamond said the key to the season will be the senior class, beginning with captains Kate Donnelly, Emmy Mathews and Katherarine Farrar, guiding the way for the younger players.

That was the case last week. Despite the youth, the team's top two scorers were seniors Megargel (17 points) and Mathews (12 points). Margaret Klein led the new players with nine points.

After Mary Washington, the Generals went down to Georgia for a couple of days in Atlanta before taking the three-hour drive north to Sewanee (0-1), where they won big behind six goals from Megargel.

Megargel was the hero again in Maryland, scoring the game-winner with 18 seconds remaining against Stevenson. W&L led 9-7 midway through the second half. Stevenson (1-1) was unranked before the game, but moved up to No. 20 in the latest poll.

Said Diamond: "We have a laundry list of things to work through, but positively it shows we can win tight games. We didn't panic. Again that goes back to our senior leadership."

The crazy thing is, the next few weeks should be even tougher for the Generals. Third-ranked Franklin and Marshall comes to Fredericksburg on Saturday for Washington and Lee's home opener. Defending NCAA champion Salisbury visits the next week and No. 6 Cortland arrives a  few days later. The Generals will then head north to take on No. 13 Catholic on March 19 to wrap up the non-league slate.

For those counting at home, that's seven ranked opponents, and two of the last three NCAA champions, in eight non-leagues games.

"It's a tough stretch," Diamond said. "That's four teams that I think could easily be the final four to be honest with you."

The final four is where Diamond hopes to see her squad. The Generals have won the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) seven of the last eight years, so playing the tough non-conference slate is a good gauge of where they stand nationally. The furthest W&L has advanced is the NCAA quarterfinals in 2005.

"Playing the best teams lets us find our weakness and a strengths," Diamond said. "We're excited about our start, but we know Saturday is really going to show us where we stand."

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