March 25, 2011

Dips Dig in as Underdogs, Look to Upset Gulls

by Mark Macyk |

Sophomore Lauren Selawski (11 points) leads seventh-ranked Franklin and Marshall against top-ranked Salisbury on Friday.

© David Sinclair

Go ahead and think Franklin and Marshall women's lacrosse is down. Focus on the fact that the Diplomats have no seniors and 12 freshmen. That they're breaking in an almost entirely new starting lineup. Think last week's spring break loss to Messiah exposed their flaws. Share your doubts.

You're just giving them what they want.

"I'd rather people count us out," said F&M coach Lauren Paul. "We expect great things out of them. They expect great things. Right now we're just in this fun growing place. I think a lot of people are counting us out because we lost to Messiah.That's fine with me. We're a team that doesn't have 10 seniors; we need people to overlook us."

Rebuilding is different at Franklin and Marshall, which has won two and reached three NCAA championships in the past four seasons. The Diplomats' 12 freshmen are not your average 18-year olds, however.

This is Paul's first recruiting class, scooped up during that magical summer of 2009 when F&M was basking in the glory of its second NCAA championship in three years, and everyone wanted to come to Lancaster. Twelve players from Massachusetts through Maryland chose to come to F&M and replicate that magic.

That's a big reason why the Diplomats remain a top-10 team, and a dangerous one to overlook.

"It doesn't matter where we're ranked anymore," Paul said. "We have to approach every game like we're the underdog, because that's how they're approaching us. Everyone's treating us like we're their biggest game of the year. I'm trying to make [F&M] treat every game like its Salisbury."

That will be easy Friday night when F&M hosts Salisbury, the defending NCAA champion. It's keeping that underdog mindset against minefields like Washington College (Saturday) and Gettysburg (April 20) in conference play that could determine F&M's ultimate success.

"It's not the talent or the on-field experience," Paul said. "It's that any time you have seniors, and it's the last time they're going to play this team, there's that excitement. The rest of the team is like, 'We're gonna do this for you.' Well, this will be the exact same team next year."

Without seniors to send off, F&M is rallying behind a new persona as underdogs. Unfamiliar territory for sure.

Franklin and Marshall starts three freshmen: goalkeeper Kelsey Hoffman, defender Libby Nichols and attacker Caroline Krohn. While the future rests with the Class of 2014, the returners have delivered in the present.

Sophomore Lauren Selawski leads the team with 11 goals and seven assists. Junior Erin Dunne is right behind with 11 goals and six assists. Junior captains Cat Serpe and Katie Delaney have 11 and eight goals, respectively.

Paul, an F&M alum, took over a team loaded with upperclassmen in the fall of 2008. The Diplomats won the title that spring, but the late start resulted in a shortened 2010 recruiting class. The team has just three sophomores.

"It's so different, but it's actually really fun," Paul said. "My first year, I really tried not to change a lot of things. I spent a lot of time maintaining team chemistry. It was a lot less strategy and on-field coaching, and a lot more being a therapist. This year is the complete opposite."

Salisbury and Washington College were scheduled back-to-back this weekend for the same reason TCNJ and Haverford were scheduled back-to-back in mid-April: to simulate tournament play, when teams will have to prepare for two tough teams within 24 hours of each other.

And though they have their doubters, the Diplomats plan to make a deep postseason run.

Said Paul: "They keep talking about 2009. I tell them forget about them. They graduated. Build this for you. People need to be talking about you in a couple of years... It's going to be a fun couple of years."

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