March 22, 2012

WD3 Notebook: Colby Makes Most of Spring Break Trip

by Mark Macyk |

Claire Donegan put Colby up 10-9 late in the Mules' two-goal win over No. 13 Hamilton on Tuesday in Clermont, Fla.
© Scott McCall

The Associated Press ran a story on Wednesday featuring photos of skiers heading down the slopes of Maine wearing bathing suits. That same day the mercury rose to 82 degrees on Colby's campus, 20 degrees above the previous high and 38 degrees above normal.

So, yeah, Colby's women's lacrosse team traveled to better weather during their Spring Break trip to Clermont, Fla. Just not in the way anybody anticipated. While Central Maine roasted, the weather in Central Florida featured a pleasantly persistent breeze and Colby took advantage, cruising to a couple of big wins.

The location changed, but the results remained the same. After opening its season with three straight wins in Maine, sixth-ranked Colby defeated Buffalo State, 17-8, on Sunday and No. 13 Hamilton, 11-9, on Tuesday.

Both wins were impressive, Buffalo State (4-2) has already scored wins over St. John Fisher and Hamilton, but the Hamilton one counts in the standings for Colby. After years of dominating the Liberty League, Hamilton joined the highly-competitive NESCAC this season. The Continentals are finding out what others in the league, which placed as many as nine teams in the Top 20 this season, already knew.

"It was already tough," Colby coach Karen Henning said, implying Hamilton only upped the ante. "You can never rest. You can't just take a week and relax."

Neither team took Spring Break to relax. Tuesday's game was tied at nine with less than 10 minutes to go. Claire Donegan put Colby up for good, 10-9, with 9:05 remaining and Kate Pistel added an insurance goal two minutes later to seal it. The goals helped hold off a Hamilton comeback that saw the Colonials erase a 6-3 halftime deficit.

"One of those typical NESCAC games," Henning said. "One team goes up, one team comes back."

Though Hamilton (2-3) is new to the conference, the teams are familiar. Colby (5-0) defeated Hamilton 6-5 in last year's NCAA tournament. Hamilton eliminated Colby in 2008 and 2010.

Winning league games on Spring Break is just one of the many challenges facing NESCAC teams. For instance Colby had no non-league warmups before it opened its season against No. 11 Amherst, a game the White Mules won 7-6 when Lindsey McKenna scored with 5.7 seconds left on the clock.

That win could come in handy come playoff time for seeding, the higher seed hosts the first round games and the semifinals and finals are hosted by the highest remaining seed. And also because it's an eight-team tournament, meaning one of those top 20 squads will be sitting out.

"Sometimes you'll look back at the end of the season and it will be like 'Oh my goodness, that first game really did matter,'" Henning said.

Colby, which finished 2011 ranked No. 8 in the country, had to adjust quickly after graduating nine seniors and five starters. This year they have just two seniors.

"It's a young team, but with great leadership," Henning said. "They played in some big situations last year. They weren't watching. They played. They just didn't play for 50 minutes. They'd play 10 minutes in a really competitive game."

That's clear on defense, where Kat McCarrick was the fifth defender last season, coming in whenever an injury or yellow card came up. With two four-year starters graduated, she's stepped in seamlessly and Colby's defense is ranked 10th in Division III with 5.50 goals against per game.

There are young players in the cage too. Freshman Claire Dickson won the starting job and splits time with sophomore Michelle Burt, giving Colby two solid options. Dickson made five saves against Hamilton.

"She instills a lot of confidence and encourages vocally on the field," Henning said. "She makes our shooters better. She's helps the defenders. That's a nice thing from a first-year player."

No Spring Break Relaxation in NESCAC

Colby concludes its Florida vacation Friday with, what else, a matchup against fellow unbeaten NESCAC member Tufts (4-0). Hamilton takes on defending NCAA runner-up Bowdoin (2-2) the same day.

All four teams are playing tough schedules in Clermont. Bowdoin fell to undefeated Salisbury, 13-6, on Tuesday.

Playing Spring Break league games is necessary in the NESCAC, where not doing so would mean staying home for Spring Break or playing league games on the day you fly out and the day after you fly in.

Henning doesn't see the Spring Break league games as any obstacle.

"It's the same for both teams," she said. "I actually think because of how competitive the schools are academically, for us, I feel they're just focused on lacrosse. They don't have the academic pressures. Papers aren't due. They'll put it all on lacrosse."

A valid concern in league that not only dominates the IWLCA's Top 20, but places eight schools in the Top 25 of US News and World Report's Liberal Arts College Rankings. They're not called Little Ivy's for nothing.

"They'll do homework," Henning added. "But it's not due."

F&M Takes Out Messiah With Ridiculous Comeback

The big Division III story in Florida last Spring Break was Messiah's upset win over Franklin & Marshall. Tuesday's rematch between the teams, on F&M's turf in Lancaster, Pa., this time, seemed to be headed that way again. Messiah led by six with less than 14 minutes remaining.

But Franklin & Marshall scored seven of the last eight goals to tie it in regulation before winning, 15-14, in overtime. Erin Dunne capped the Diplomats late 7-1 run, forcing overtime with 1:13 remaining in regulation. The teams traded goals twice in the first overtime, but Dunne scored the only goal of the second to win it on a free position with 1:16 on the clock.

Dunne finished with six goals, four after F&M fell behind 11-5. Cat Serpe added four goals and one assist and Kelsey Hoffman made 14 saves for F&M (5-1).

Rachel Dirksen had three goals and three assists for Messiah (6-1), which scored five of the game's first six goals.

F&M begins Centennial Conference play on Saturday at Washington College (4-2).

Messiah takes on No. 17 York (8-1) and No. 18 Catholic (2-4) before beginning league play to defend its Middle Atlantic Conference crown.

Trinity Ends on Epic Run

Catholic was also the victim of a ridiculous comeback this week, as Trinity rallied from a late five-goal deficit to win, 14-13, on Wednesday.

Hadley Duncan scored with two seconds on the clock to win it for the fourth-ranked Bantams (4-0). Duncan's score came on the heels of two from Liz Bruno in the final two minutes.

Trinity actually scored the first give goals of the game, but Catholic answered with nine straight, and 13 of the next 16 goals, to go up 13-8 with just over six minutes remaining.

It was the second one-goal loss to a Top 20 team in four days for Catholic, which lost to Washington & Lee, 11-10, on Saturday. The road gets no easier for the Cardinals. They take on No. 19 Stevenson (4-3) on Saturday, then head to Messiah.

Trinity, the defending NESCAC regular season champion, has won all four of its games on the road. The Bantams host No. 20 Bates (3-2) on Saturday.

Gettysburg's Church Added to Tewaaraton Watch List

Last season Hannah Church helped lead Gettysburg to an NCAA title. This week she was added to the Tewaaraton Watch List. The senior, who has 17 goals and three assists this year, was the only Division III player among the three added to the women's watch list on Wednesday.

Gettysburg has rolled to a 5-0 record, winning its games by an average score of 17-7.

Church joins TCNJ's Leigh Mitchell, Cortland's Lindsey Abbott and Mary Washington's Catherine Kennedy as D-III representatives on the list.

So far this season Kennedy has 19 goals and two assists for Mary Washington (4-2). Mitchell has nine goals and leads Division III with 41 assists. Abbot has 16 goals and 14 assists and, on Tuesday, became the second Cortland player ever to top 200 goals.

Cortland defeated TCNJ, 9-8, on Saturday, with Abbot scoring two goals and four assists for Cortland (4-1) and Mitchell providing two assists for TCNJ (6-1).

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