April 29, 2011

WD3 Notebook: CNU Sails Towards Bigger Prize

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Kaitlyn Quiqley leads Christopher Newport with 54 goals this season. The Captains have won six straight USA South championships.

© Christopher Newport University

This year the Captains aren’t content to go down with the ‘ship.

That’s the USA South Atlantic Champions, which Christopher Newport (13-3) won for the sixth straight year last week, taking down host Greensboro 18-7. Now the focus shifts toward winning an NCAA tournament game for the first time.

“We’re definitely not satisfied just getting in,” said CNU coach Carolyn Raveia. “It’s a great honor to represent your conference, but we want to go as far as possible. We feel like we’ve hit a road block.”

Last season Catholic ended CNU’s season, 19-9 in the first round of the NCAA’s. The year before it was Mary Washington. Catholic did it in 2008 that as well. The Captains will prepare for this postseason against a team that knows a bit about the NCAA tournament, defending NCAA champion Salisbury. The Seagulls will be the second Capital Athletic Conference foe in as many weeks for CNU, the Captains head to St. Mary’s on Sunday.

“Our conference tournament is so early,” Raveia said. “The final is 28 days from the first round. We want to make sure we’re prepared. Playing Salisbury the Saturday before will be a good indicator of where we’re at.”

For the past four years CNU opened its season against Salisbury and lost each time. Saving the Seagulls for later not only helps the Captains prepare for the NCAA’s, it allowed them to start the season with seven straight wins. They opened up with an 18-17 victory over Adrian, potentially another NCAA tournament team.

“It can be daunting to open the season against the reigning NCAA champs,” Raveia said. “I wanted to face some really strong competition leading up to the NCAA’s. It worked out for the best.”

The Captains are young, with three seniors and just one junior. Rather than opening with a loss to Salisbury, the team’s 11 freshmen knew nothing but winning for their first month in the NCAA, before finally falling at Roanoke (10-7) on March 20.

Said Raveia: “They weren’t used to losing. It was a big awakening.”

Luckily for CNU there’s a senior on each unit. Attacker Meghan Harkey leads the team in points (37 goals, 52 assists), midfielder Kaitlyn Quigley leads the team with 54 goals and has 32 assists  and defender Morgan Layton leads the team with 17 caused turnovers.

Younger players like freshman Ashton Marshall (48 goals, five assists) and sophomore Lauren King (39 goals, five assists) stepped up and CNU won six of its next seven games before falling 12-11 last Wednesday to Randolph-Macon (7-9), the first in its post-conference tournament schedule.

“As cliche as it sounds every loss you learn something,” Raveia said. “It gives you a bigger chip on your shoulder. That was an example of us being a little too complacent. Resting on our laurels. It’s not enough to win a tournament and coast into the NCAAs. We’ve been able to flip a switch and change the tone of practice and really focus.”

Salisbury Back in Too

Playing Christopher Newport should be a good warmup for Salisbury as well. The defending NCAA champion Seagulls won their ninth straight Capital Athletic Conference title with an 18-6 victory over Mary Washington on Friday. It was almost the exact same result as the regular season when Salisbury won 18-7. Alyssa Fowler led Salisbury, which won its 11th overall CAC title, with four goals and one assist.

The fifth-ranked Seagulls (16-2) have bounced back since their loss to TCNJ, winning three straight by a combined score of 53-11. The CNU game on May 7 will be their only during the 20-game layoff between the CAC and NCAA tournaments.

TCNJ Don’t Need No Stinking Automatic Bid

CNU and Salisbury are the only teams to officially punch their tickets for the NCAA, but at least one Pool B school can safely back its bags.

No. 1 TCNJ (16-0) won its second NJAC title in three seasons with an 18-5 victory over Montclair State (10-4) on Friday. Both teams should be tourney-bound. TCNJ is a lock to get the first Pool B spot, Montclair State is the favorite for the Skyline’s automatic bid.

Ali Jaeger and Leigh Mitchell were honored before the game for their recent revising of the TCNJ’s record books, Jaeger is now the school’s all-time goals and points leader, Mitchell the assists leader. Both dominated the final with Jaeger notching four goals and Mitchell four goals and two assists.

Tourney Time

Salisbury and CNU will have plenty of company in the automatic bid corner after this weekend. The Commonwealth Coast, NESCAC, NEWMAC, NAC, NCAC, Centennial Conference, Great Northeast, Old Dominion and Skyline conferences all get under way, with automatic bids on the line. More conference tournaments will begin next week.

Defending champions enter most tournaments as the top seed, but a few conferences saw shake ups.

In the Comm. Coast, five-time defending champion Endicott (11-6) finished tied with Western New England (13-4), but WNE grabbed the No. 1 seed by virtue of its 15-12 victory of a week ago.

In last seasons’s NEWMAC title game, Babson routed Springfield. This year Springfield (10-5) paid them back with a one-goal win in the regular season and the tournament as a one seed and host. If Springfield gets past Wheaton (7-11) and Babson (8-7) gets past MIT (9-5) on Saturday, Sunday could see a re-match one of the D-III’s best conference finals.

Denison (11-4) rolled unbeaten through the North Coast Conference for the first time since 2005 to earn the conferences No. 1 seed. Defending champion Kenyon (9-6) finished tied for fifth and lost out on a playoff return on a tiebreaker.

The best game could be Sunday’s Centennial Conference championship. On Saturday host Franklin & Marshall (15-2) takes on Washington College (11-5) and Gettysburg (13-3) faces Ursinus (8-8). If F&M and Gettysburg hold serve it will be a matchup of two top 10 teams and a re-match of last season’s final, and basically every season’s final, won 9-8 in overtime by F&M. The fifth-ranked Dips defeated No. 7 Gettysburg 9-7 last week.

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