March 25, 2011

NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse Notebook: Curry Eyes NCAAs, Hansbury Eyes All-Time Scoring Crown

by Mark Macyk |

Curry College senior Ashley Hansbury's 399 career points put her 41 behind former Curry standout Nikki Mackay for the most in NCAA Division III women's lacrosse history.

© Matt Risley

The Curry College women's lacrosse team is off to its best start in school history. Senior Ashley Hansbury has 52 points in five games. With 399 career points, she's just 41 away from a Division III record, currently held by Curry's own Nikki MacKay (2008).

But they aren't throwing parties in Milton, Mass. just yet. Hot starts and scoring records are nice, but the Colonels have their eyes on a bigger prize -- a Commonwealth Coast Conference championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament, heights the team have never scaled.

"It's a long road to May 6," said Curry coach Caitlin Roberts of the conference tournament. "Teams want to give us an upset. They don't want us to go undefeated. Everyone wants to hand us our first loss."

But Curry is playing like a team that doesn't want to lose.

Take Tuesday's 13-12 win at Roger Williams. The Colonels trailed 4-0, 9-6 and 10-7. Midway through the second half, the first loss of the season became a distinct possibility. But Curry fired back with five straight goals and went up 12-10 on a free position from Ana Bottary with 10 minutes left. With two minutes remaining, Roger Williams' Danica Delia tied it with her fourth goal of the game.

Curry didn't break. Hansbury held the ball and waited for the perfect shot.

"I told her we're either gonna take it into overtime or she's gonna score the game-winner," Roberts said.

Hansbury got her shot and missed it, but grabbed the rebound and put in the game-winner with five seconds remaining.

"It was huge," Roberts said. "I told the girls on the bus I wouldn't have wanted to beat that team any other way. We had been beating teams up, averaging 18-19 goals. The fact that we were able to recover gave us so much confidence. I've had teams in the past that couldn't mentally recover from that."

Hansbury's heroics came on the heels of a 15-point performance earlier this month against Mount Ida. She's making her senior season count, because it's the two-time CCC Player of the Year's final chance.

"She's not thinking of breaking a record or another player of the year," Roberts said. "Her ultimate goal is to win a championship. She's played sports her entire life and never won a championship."

To reach that elusive championship, Curry will likely have to dethrone Endicott, the five-time defending CCC champion. They'll square off in the regular season on April 2.

The career scoring mark is also very much within reach for Hansbury -- she'll have at least 11 more games to get the 41 points needed to break MacKay's record. Roberts doesn't see a Curry player threatening the record, which had previously stood since 1996, as a coincidence. Talent is there, if you know where to look. Hansbury is from nearby Chelmsford, Mass.; MacKay from Framingham, Mass.

"I look at is as I've had two Division I players," Roberts said. "Part of recruiting is selling the program and selling the school. A lot of people ask me, 'Where do you do your recruiting?' I start in Mass. There's amazing talent in the area."

Curry will look to keep its streak going at home  Saturday against another Massachusetts team, Gordon.

St. John Fisher cracks top 20

There are three new names on this week's IWLCA top 20. New No. 16 Messiah beat Franklin and Marshall, but then fell to new No. 19 William Smith. On Tuesday, William Smith fell to the new No. 20 St. John Fisher (4-1).

It's the second time St. John Fisher has made the national polls. The Cardinals cracked the preseason rankings last year thanks to an inspired run to the sweet 16 in the previous NCAA tournament. They promptly lost their first five games of the 2010 season and ended up 5-11.

"I told my players, you actually earned this ranking," said SJFC coach Shannon McHale. "The other time you didn't."

It wasn't just the burden of high expectations that took down the Cardinals last season. It was struggling out of the gate against a gauntlet that included Mary Washington, Union, William Smith and Hamilton.

"It was hard for that group last year," McHale said. "It just didn't work, being ranked. We had a lot of seniors who had been starters for four years and they put a lot pressure on themselves."

This year, the Cardinals returned two starters on attack and one at midfield and have an entirely new back line. The two returning attackers Courtney Clare (11 goals, 12 assists) and Mary Stimson (17 goals and four assists) have done the bulk of the scoring. Sophomore midfielder Melissa Leonhard transferred from Division II Mercyhurst and leads the team with 18 goals.

"If you're experienced on attack, you've got to count on out-scoring teams," McHale said. "It's given our defense time to adjust."

Scoring has been the MO for SJFC, which after losing its first game to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in California in early March has beaten Oneonta 20-10, Union 14-13, Buffalo State 19-17 and William Smith 17-14.

Next is a Saturday game at No. 2 Hamilton before Empire 8 play starts up.

"We play a lot of Liberty League teams before conference play, because those are the strong teams," McHale said. "It's a fine line. Last year it hurt us, because we were 0-4. This year I'm thinking it will help."

Cortland snaps Hamilton's home winning streak

Hamilton (2-1) might be extra motivated for St. John Fisher after its 58-game home winning streak was snapped by No. 8 Cortland, 12-9 on Tuesday. Cortland (5-1) led 7-1 after 17 minutes. Lindsay Abbot led the way with seven points, and Ally Levy made 10 saves.

It was Hamilton's first regular season loss since April 2009 and first home loss since April 2006. Both losses came against Union.

Cortland wraps up its six-game road trip, which included a 12-5 loss at TCNJ and an 8-7 win at Washington and Lee, Saturday at Ithaca. The Red Dragons return home, and begin SUNYAC play, against Oswego on April 2.

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