February 23, 2012

Redlands Gets Past Southern California Rival

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Redlands and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps will meet again this season, perhaps more than once, but for now Redlands, including senior midfielder Kali Wilgus, has bragging rights around Southern California.
© de la Cruz Photography 

Redlands women's lacrosse is without a doubt one of the most successful Division III teams from west of the Mississippi River.

The 14th-year program in Southern California has only finished below .500 once since 2005, compiling a 69-45 record during that stretch. Last year the Bulldogs defeated teams from Georgia, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington and Oregon, and reached their first NCAA tournament.

But until Sunday night, when Redlands rode a late rally to win 14-13 at No. 19 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, it could never claim to be the best team in 909 area code. The victory was the Bulldogs first ever over their local rivals, who sit a 40-minute drive west on Interstate-10.

"It's definitely an exciting milestone," said Suzette Soboti, who has coached Redlands since its inception in 1999. "I'm happy for our alumni and the girls that have been with the program. Claremont has been, and still is, a very strong and perennial power. But we talked about it and we don't want it to be the only thing that defines our season."

That's especially good advice considering Redlands will play CMS again, at home this time, on April 14. They could play them again in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament. And maybe, if last year is any indication, again in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Such is the nature of a competitive West Coast league with six teams.

For now Redlands enjoys an early first-place position and after just two games is the SCIAC's only undefeated team.

Junior Crystal Painter's game-winner is the reason for that. Painter's goal capped a rally that saw Redlands erase a two-goal deficit in the final three minutes.

Redlands led by three early and didn't trail until the 8:55 mark of the second half, when CMS broke an 11-11 tie with a goal by Erin Chavanne. Rachel Darby scored three minutes later to give CMS a two-point lead that held until 3:03 remaining, when Redlands sophomore Jacky Craycraft started the comeback with her fourth goal. Less than 30 seconds later senior Megan Prickett scored her third goal to tie it. Painter provided the game-winner on a free position with 7.7 seconds to go.

Expect the next game, and any subsequent rematches, to also be close. Redlands and CMS are both benefitting from the suddenly fertile recruiting grounds of Southern California. Craycraft and Prickett are both SoCal natives and 17 Bulldogs hail from California, Oregon or Washington.

"That's increased in recent years," Soboti said. "Now that the CIF, our high school league, is growing exponentially, there's more players to choose from that have six years of prior experience... We get very involved working in the community. We've tried to help [lacrosse] grow in Southern California."

Experience will be Redlands' key to being more than the best of the west this year. The Bulldogs graduated just one player from their NCAA tournament team. The tournament experience, a 19-11 loss at CMS, should also come in handy.

"It does a lot for any team to have that first berth and get that experience," Soboti said. "With that first experience you're just in awe. You're just excited to be there. That gives them a confidence they can draw on."

As will Sunday's victory when the teams meet again.

"They're just a great group of girls," Soboti said. "To finally get that monkey off our backs will be very good."

Dickinson Pulls Upset

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps was not the only Top 20 team to lose in the season's first week. Dickinson College, of the always competitive Centennial League, defeated No. 20 Elizabethtown 13-11 on Tuesday.

Freshman Aly Dawson had five goals and one assist and senior Taryn Abbassian had three goals to help Dickinson build a 13-8 lead before holding off a late Elizabethtown rally. Elizabethtown's Leigh Flounlacker also had five goals and one assist.

Dickinson will look to keep rolling on Saturday against St. Mary's (Md.). Elizabethtown continues its stretch of five straight Centennial games when it hosts McDaniel on Saturday. Defending NCAA Champion Gettysburg looms after that.

Late-game Deja Vu for Sewanee

Sewanee is showing an early-season flair for the dramatic. The Tigers have won each of their first two games behind some late magic.

Saturday, Sewanee defeated Augustana 17-16 when junior Molly Arnold scored the game-winner with a late free position. It was her fifth goal of the game.

Meg Welton provided the heroics in Sunday's 11-10 victory over Guilford, scoring the game-winner, her seventh goal of the game, with 2:54 remaining. The Tigers host Carthage on Sunday.

Abbot, Kennedy, Mitchell on Tewaaraton Watch List

Three Division III women's players were named to the Tewaaraton Watch List this week: Cortland's Lindsay Abbot, Mary Washington's Catherine Kennedy and TCNJ's Leigh Mitchell.

All three players have rewritten their school's record books.

Last season Abbot established Cortland single-season records of 76 assists and 138 points and netted 62 goals. Mitchell, already TCNJ's all-time assist leader, set program records last season with 123 points and 68 assists. Kennedy broke the school's goals and points record last season with 79 and 115, and is Mary Washington's all-time scoring leader.

Abbot and Mitchell's teams have not played yet, but Kennedy had three goals in Mary Washington's 12-2 win over St. Joseph's (NY) on Sunday.

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