April 14, 2011

NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse Notebook: Bridgewater St. Leaves Little Suspense in NEWLA

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

The seven other teams of the New England Women's Lacrosse Alliance would hardly consider Bridgewater State an ally. Not with BSU, which has lost only one conference game in the past four years, primed for a fourth consecutive conference title and a second straight NCAA tournament bid.

The Bears (10-1) have roared into NEWLA play with three double-digit wins, and before Tuesday's loss at No. 13 Tufts, had opened the season with 10 straight wins.

The allies could have seen this coming. The Bears have eight seniors, seven of whom have known nothing but NEWLA championships.

"It's a great combination of leadership and drive," said BSU coach Erika Smith. "There's a passion to win. Great leaders, great motivators. It's awesome. I couldn't ask for a better senior group."

That senior group includes three-time All-NEWLA selection Jenny Jones, BSU's single season scoring leader, and midfielder Courtney Lennon, who lead the team with 52 and 50 points, respectively. The senior leadership really shows up on defense, where two-time NEWLA Defensive Player of the Year Erin Quimby and goalie Kate Weber have helped the team hold seven opponents in single digits.

"We're big on defense," Smith said. "[Quimby] leads by example. She's always working."

The only senior that didn't play on last year's championship squad has been the defense's biggest surprise. Bethany Bush is one of the best field hockey players BSU has ever had.  She led the Little East in scoring this year, and decided to join the lacrosse team "for fun," Smith said.

Bush has added another dimension to the Bears' backline.

Said Smith: "She's an amazing athlete. Has a great game-sense. "

Bridgewater tasted defeat for the first time since last year's NCAA tournament on Tuesday, falling 19-2 at Tufts. The result was almost identical to last year's NCAA tournament, where the Bears lost to another NESCAC team, Trinity, 19-3.

Smith wanted a team like Tufts on the schedule, you know, on the off chance the Bears return to the tourney.

"I don't want to get ahead of ourselves," Smith said. "But if we get the opportunity to go the NCAA tournament, we know what kind of teams we'll be playing. You can learn a lot from a loss. Learn their style of play. I was excited to play Tufts. We're going to get better by playing better teams."

Endicott still Commonwealth Coast team to beat; Curry's Hansbury breaks scoring record

Speaking of perennially dominating teams from Massachusetts that play Tufts this week, five-time defending Commonwealth Coast Conference champion Endicott has won seven in a row and once again looks like the CCC's team to beat.

Endicott handed Curry (12-1) its only loss two weeks ago, rolling to a 22-13 victory, and had deja vu when it beat both University of New England (4-0) and New England College (3-9) by identical 20-9 scores this past week. Junior Morgan DeShaw leads the team with 40 goals and 50 points.

The Gulls still have Western New England (9-4), which lost its first conference game last week to Gordon (which has won three straight) and high-scoring Roger Williams (8-5) before the CCC tournament, but a non-league game against Tufts on Thursday should have them prepared.

Endicott could very likely meet Curry in the title game, where they'll have to shut down Ashley Hansbury. The senior, who leads Division III with 5.91 goals and 8.55 points per game, became Division III's all-time leading scorer last week. The two-time CCC Player of the Year had eight goals and three assists in a 22-1 victory over Regis Saturday, breaking the record when she scored her eighth goal of the game with 16:32 remaining.

Hansbury added five goals and two assists in Tuesday's 18-15 win over University of New England, giving her 448 career points.

TCNJ faces another test

Rowan edged The College of New Jersey for the NJAC title last year. Salisbury knocked TCNJ out of the NCAA tournament. The Lions left both teams in their rear view mirrors this week, handing Salisbury its second loss, 11-6, on Sunday and crushing Rowan 20-2 on Tuesday.

After becoming the TCNJ's all-time leading scorer against Salisbury, Ali Jaegar kept adding to it with five goals and five assists versus Rowan. The stingiest defense in the NCAA has yet to allow a team to score more than seven goals and averages almost three fewer goals allowed than the next best team, Messiah. Goalie Mary Waller leads all of Division III with a .624 save percentage.

Speaking of Messiah (9-1), Franklin and Marshall (12-1) has clearly put its spring break loss to the Falcons behind them. The seventh-ranked Diplomats have won seven straight and will be the latest team to try to knock of TCNJ when they host the Lions Friday at 6 p.m.

It will be the conclusion of a six-game road swing for TCNJ, which has won the first five by a combined score of 76-17.

Keuka getting defensive

Hard to believe, but there's actually been stingier defense than TCNJ this month. The Storm of tiny Keuka College in New York's Finger Lakes region has won four games in April: 20-3 at Wilson, 16-3 over Medaille, 20-4 against Penn State-Abington and, most recently, 15-1 over St. Elizabeth.

The defending champions of both the North Eastern Athletic Conference and the North Atlantic Conference are third in Division III with a 5.57 goals against average. Keuka heads to Cazenovia (5-4) on Friday, which is also undefeated in league play.

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