May 6, 2011

NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse Notebook: Babson Responds to Adversity

by Mark Macyk |

Senior goalkeeper Sarah Macary has backstopped Babson's revamped man-to-man defense and made 28 saves combined in the NEWMAC semifinal and championship game victories.

The NEWMAC women's lacrosse tournament had a new host but the same old champion came through.

For the first time in five years, Babson had to leave campus during the conference's final weekend, take the hour and a half drive across I-90 to Springfield and try to win the title on enemy soil. Springfield's one-goal victory on April 2, the first conference loss by Babson since 2006, made sure of that.

Babson held onto its title in the state capital, however, routing MIT 16-3 in the semifinal on Saturday and Springfield 19-7 in last Sunday's championship.

"It meant so much," said Babson coach Kully Reardon. "To lose the first one in triple overtime to Springfield was pretty devastating. To win in unknown territory, for them to overcome it and win away from home really said a lot about their character."

The team's character was tested early. After opening the season with a rout of Eastern Connecticut, Babson lost seven of its next nine, falling to Wesleyan, William Smith, Franklin and Marshall, Bates, Middlebury Springfield and Tufts. Not exactly the easiest opening schedule for a team trying to adjust to the graduation of two All-Americans.

"We faced a ton of adversity and it crushed us," Reardon said. "We were able to draw on those tough losses. I knew it would bring them together. It was, it is, too good of a team to not figure it out. I tell them all the time this is the best team I've ever coached. I mean that TEAM in capital letters. There's not one player on this team you can face-guard; you have five other kids that will score."

That's what happened in the final against Springfield, as eight different Beavers scored. Babson opened the game 10-1. It's been the trend recently. Since their last loss, 15-4 to Tufts on April 5, the Beavers have won seven straight, five by double-digit margins.

Babson hasn't scored fewer than 16 goals during the current run, but it's the defense that has keyed the turnaround. After opening the season playing zone, the Beavers shifted to man-to-man a few weeks back and haven't allowed an oponent to reach double figures since Tufts.

Sarah Macary's been a big reason for that. The senior goalie made 15 saves and allowed two goals in the semifinal victory and followed with 13 saves in the final against Springfield.

"She's the heart and soul of everything this team is about," Reardon said.

Macary's classmates have made it easy lately. Senior Alyssa Hood shifted from attack to midfield and not only leads the team with 66 points, but has 17 ground balls seven caused turnovers. Kate Danforth leads the revamped defense. Junior Trisha Babson had five goals and one assist against Springfield and has 30 goals and a team-high 24 assists and 84 draw controls. Her classmate Colleen Mulligan leads the team with 50 goals.

"We're a totally different team now," Reardon said. "The leadership has been great throughout, but we hadn't played a complete game like we did until Springfield. They know they're not the same team that got killed by Tufts, lost to Middlebury. They really, truly believe."

Babson's in an interesting spot for the NCAA tournament. The Beavers have made five straight appearances and had success. Last season they upset Williams in the first round. In 2008 they beat Trinity. Reardon said she expects a NESCAC team to await in this year's first round and hopes her team can draw on the early games against the power conference.

"We look at it as we're not just happy to be there," Reardon said. "Especially this season. We know what it takes to beat Middlbury and Tufts. We look at is as, once again, prove it. Last year they sent us to Williams; we proved it. We're prepared to do exactly that again."

NESCAC down to final four

If Babson does expect to face a NESCAC team, the Beavers will likely have their eyes on this weekend's conference semifinals hosted by Trinity.

The conference's automatic bid will be on the line beginning Saturday at noon with top-seeded Trinity (15-0) against fifth-seeded Tufts (11-5). Third-seeded Colby (12-3) takes on second-seeded Bowdoin (14-2) afterward, with the winners squaring off Sunday at noon.

The anything-can-happen season continued in the quarters, in which Trinity (15-6 over Williams) and Colby (17-8 over Bates) had it easy but Bowdoin squeaked past Amherst 5-3 and Tufts won at Middlbury 13-12.

All four semifinalists rank in the top 15 and have good enough resumes to reach the NCAA tournament. During the regular season, Trinity beat Tufts 9-6 and Bowdoin beat Colby 10-9 in overtime.

Franklin and Marshall punches ticket

As it tends to happen when these two teams get together, Franklin and Marshall and Gettysburg played a heck of a game in last Sunday's Centennial Conference final. The host Dips edged Gettysburg 7-6 for their fifth straight title.

Cat Serpe scored the title-clinching goal for the second straight season, putting F&M up 7-4 with 11:55 remaining. Kelsey Hoffman made a season-high 12 saves to help F&M hold on.

Half of Gettyburg's losses came to F&M this season, by a combined three goals. The other two losses came to TCNJ and Hamilton, the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the country, respectively. The Bullets' NCAA resume actually strengthened with Mary Washington entering the top 20, so expect Gettysburg to reach the tournament for the 10th straight season.

Montclair State wins second straight Skyline title

Montclair State will head to the NCAA tournament for the second straight season as the Redhawks won the Skyline Conference with a 17-7 victory over Ramapo in the conference final. Senior Kayla Henderson had five goals in the championship and was named tournament MVP. Montclair lost to Stevens 15-12 in last year's tournament.

Norwich goes back-to-back

Norwich will also head to its second straight NCAA tournament, as the Cadets defeated Lasell 12-8 in the GNAC championship on Sunday. It could be the second of many titles -- freshman Grace Fitzpatrick was named the tournament's MVP and scored five goals. Norwich fell to Cortland 19-3 in last season's first round.

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