February 10, 2012

Gettysburg, Franklin & Marshall Star-Crossed Rivals

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Senior attacker Hannah Church had 29 points in last year's NCAA tournament en route to the Bullets' first title. Franklin and Marshall won the championship in 2007 and 2009.
© Lee Weissman

The women's lacrosse teams at Gettysburg and Franklin and Marshall have a Shakespearian, two-households-both-alike-in-dignity kind of rivalry. The Pennsylvania schools, separated by 55 miles and the Susquehanna River, have plenty in common. They have similar sizes and reputations. The latest US News & World Report college rankings puts Franklin and Marshall 42nd among liberal arts schools and Gettysburg 47th.

They're both pretty good at lacrosse, too.

Three of the past five NCAA Division III championships have gone to one of these two schools. The rivalry took a turn last
year when Gettysburg captured its first NCAA title. Franklin and Marshall won it in 2007 and 2009.

"Both schools are great products," Gettysburg head coach Carol Cantele said. "I don't know how long it is until you get this
reputation for a tradition of success, but once you establish it, that tradition draws a certain type of player."

That type of player seeks academic and athletic excellence and is typically drawn to both programs.

"In the ACC a kid might look at Virginia, Duke and UNC," Cantele said. "Same in our area. A kid might take a ride and look at F&M, check out Gettysburg. The good news is there's plenty to go around for both of us."

Division III has plenty of contenders this year, from perennial public school powers like TCNJ, Cortland and Salisbury, to whoever emerges from the loaded NESCAC, which added Hamilton to its stable this offseason.

Still, it's tough to argue with what Franklin and Marshall and Gettysburg have returning. The Bullets graduated just two fulltime starters from their championship squad. The Diplomats, who had no seniors last year, now have 10 — a group that essentially acted like seniors as juniors.

The teams will renew the rivalry April 18 in Gettysburg. If history is any indication, they’ll meet again in the Centennial
Conference title game. If last year is any indication, that won’t have much bearing on the NCAA tournament —
Franklin and Marshall defeated Gettysburg twice.

TCNJ eliminated the Diplomats 14-13 in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Bullets rolled after losing 7-6 in the Centennial Conference final, earning an at-large NCAA tournament bid and rattling off five straight victories before downing Bowdoin 16-5 in the championship game.

Gettysburg returns plenty of championship-pedigreed players. Senior attacker Hannah Church set postseason records with 26 goals and 29 points during the NCAA tournament. Sophomore midfielder Kelsey Markiewicz scored four goals each in the semifinals and championship game as a freshman. Senior goalie Maddie Coleman, who made nine saves in the championship game, is back for a shot at a second straight title.

“They walk by daily reminders of their success,” Cantele said. “There are banners on the lampposts. But you know how kids are. They move on to the here and now.”

And how will it feel for Franklin and Marshall’s players when they look up at those banners and remember they beat Gettysburg twice?

“One is a sense of pride for the conference,” Diplomats head coach Lauren Paul said. “Knowing that we not only beat them in the regular season, but we’re head-to-head all the time. If anyone is going to be the champion, why shouldn’t it be someone from our conference?

“It’s [a reaction] of pride and one of absolute determination. It’s them saying, ‘We can never let that happen ever again.’”

The Diplomats also will be motivated by personal goals. The current seniors were freshmen on Franklin and Marshall’s last NCAA title team. They thought they would have a chance to continue that success.

Cat Serpe scored as a freshman in the 2009 NCAA championship game. Now she’s a senior leader, an offensive-minded midfielder who contributes on the defensive side as well. Lauren Ehrhart also started as a freshman on the championship team. Today she runs the offense as a senior attacker.

Junior midfielder Maggie Mae Shields was voted most valuable player by her Diplomat teammates last year. Paul described Shields as a “scrapper” and said one of Gettysburg’s coaches emailed her after their game last season noting how fun Shields must be to coach.

That’s the thing with this ancient feud: Eventually they do realize how much fun it could be to play beside their enemies. In true “Romeo and Juliet” fashion, these starcrossed rivals eventually discover they aren’t so different.

Paul, who played at Franklin and Marshall, knows that firsthand.

“I still keep in touch with some of the girls,” Paul said. “Afterwards they always seem to find themselves as friends. I tell them they have a lot in common.”

Just don’t expect the current players to buy into it.

Said Paul: “[As a player] I never would have imagined speaking to them.”

This article appears in the February issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription to LM.

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