April 7, 2011

Three Schools, One Tough Team: Numbers Don't Lie, As CMS Braces for Deeper Run

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Madi Shove is the second-leading scorer for Claremont Mudd Scripps, which in its quest for a fifth straight NCAA tournament has managed to upend East Coast establishment teams like Bates, St. John Fisher and Buffalo State.

In less than 100 years of existence, the colleges of Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd and Scripps have churned out congressmen, Ivy League professors and astronauts, while consistently ranking among the nation's top liberal arts schools.

They've also come together to form the West's most dangerous women's lacrosse team.

Still, to many back east, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps remains a mystery.

"It's easy to look past the West Coast school with the funny name," said CMS coach Ginger Miles. "We take pride in our school and West Coast lacrosse. We think we can compete with any team in the country."

CMS (10-2) certainly can. In its quest for a fifth straight trip to the NCAA tournament, the Athenas have already beaten Bates, St. John Fisher, Buffalo State and local rival Redlands. They're in the midst of a five-game winning streak. For those East Coast teams that might see the team in May, here are a few more numbers to know about Claremont-Mudd-Scripps: three schools, one tough team.

CMS has played three, and beaten two, teams that have been ranked this year. They took down former No. 20 St. John Fisher, 17-13 at home in March and current No. 20 Bates, 16-11, a week earlier. The Athenas met No. 10 Stevens on a spring break trip to Florida and lost 16-11 in a game that was tied at halftime.

Said Miles: "It's a great opportunity to play those East Coast teams and get roughed up a bit. The East Coast style is more physical. We love it."

Then there's 62, the number of points senior Sarah Dick has this season, placing her in the top 20 in Division III. She's had her biggest games when it has counted the most. After back-to-back seven goals games against Buffalo State and Whittier earned her Synapse Sports' D3 Player of the Week honors, she went out and scored eight goals against previously undefeated Redlands.

Dick is from Beverly, Mass., one of six East Coasters on the team. CMS fields players from 13 states, and not just the original colonies you find on most teams. Players hail from Vermont to Washington to Colorado to Minnesota, and seemingly everywhere in between.

Dick leads the team in scoring. Just behind her is sophomore Madi Shove (52 goals, six assists) who hails from the San Francisco Bay area, as does freshman Maddie Bannon, who takes the draws. Sophomore Rachel Darby is third in scoring (28 goals, three assists); she's from Maine. Rounding out CMS's top five scorers are Molly Murtagh from Wilton High School in Connecticut and Kaitlyn Desai from St. Louis, who each have 24 points.

"It's not exactly the easiest recruiting process, but our schools have a lot of offer academically," Miles said. "They're looking at academics first, but I think a lot of our New England kids are used to snow... We do well recruiting kids from cold weather who want to play in sunshine."

That sunny weather comes at a cost. While the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is local, Redlands is 30 miles away, Pomona-Pitzer is across the street... and the NCAA tournament is not. CMS has two NCAA tournament wins, each coming at home. Two years ago the Athenas travelled 2,700 miles to Cortland, the longest midweek trip in NCAA history, according to Miles. The trip came in the middle of finals week, CMS lost 23-8 to the eventual NCAA semifinalist Red Dragons.

That brings up the most important number for CMS this year: three. The Athenas have never advanced beyond the second round of the NCAA tournament. They are no longer just happy to be there.

"We're starting to realize we have the potential to do so much more," Miles said. "Our girls have seen they can compete with the best teams. We want to win that second round game. It's not good enough to just get that bid."

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