May 15, 2014

WD3 Regionals: Undefeated Augustana Faces Salisbury

By Mark Macyk | | Twitter | May Madness Home

After rolling through the Midwest, Augustana takes its unbeaten act to Salisbury this weekend. (Augustana Athletics)

A familiar scene will play out at Salisbury this weekend, where an undefeated team with a Top 10 defense, driven by a season-ending loss to Trinity from the previous year, takes the field for an NCAA tournament game.

But this isn’t about the 2013 Salisbury Seagulls, it’s about the visiting team, the 2014 Augustana Vikings. And while Salisbury is the defending NCAA champion, Augustana will be the only undefeated team taking the field on Maryland’s Eastern Shore this weekend.

“It’s a welcomed opportunity,” said Augustana coach Sara Tisdale, whose third-year program comes into the weekend at 19-0. “I think everyone would say they have great respect for Salisbury. We’re excited for the opportunity.”

Speaking of opportunities, the Vikings just earned one that few programs can expect so quickly - they hosted a first round NCAA tournament game. At home in Rock Island, Ill., on Saturday, Hilary Kargl paired eight goals with three assists and Augustana dispatched perennial tournament team Adrian 22-14 to move on to Salisbury.

“Words can’t easily describe it,” Tisdale said. “The NCAA showed us a great deal of respect by saying that we earned it. For us to get to play at home, get that bye and not have to play in a play-in game, our players thought ‘Wow.’ We didn’t take that lightly.”

It was a far cry from last season, when Augustana made the flight out to to Los Angeles for the first round of the tournament, where they upset Redlands, before flying back across the country to Trinity, where the Vikings’ season ended with a 19-2 loss to the defending NCAA champions. They have not lost since. That may not be a coincidence. Augustana has used that Trinity loss as a building block.

“It changed the way we measured ourselves,” Tisdale said. “Playing a team of Trinity’s caliber was a big eye-opener. It left our players hungry. They came back after the summer in great shape, knowing what it would take to be one of those top teams. It was the thing that drove our bus.”

It was a bus that logged a lot of miles, as the Vikings headed out from the Quad Cities and scored early season victories in far off lands like Sewanee, Centre and Adrian, before rolling through its Midwest Lacrosse Conference slate.

The crazy thing is, the team is only getting better. Augustana still does not have a senior on its roster. Kargl, a junior from Louisville ranks second in Division III with 128 points (61 goals, 67 assists). Her game log fluctuates between 10 assist efforts and eight-goal outpourings, depending on what the situation calls for.

“She’s humble,” Tisdale said. “If you ask her after the game, she’s not counting her stats.”

The offense will remain humming for in the near future thanks to players like Emily Handrahan, a team leader who ranks second on the team with 42 assists and Olivia Mayer (30 goals, 29 ground balls, 28 draw controls), a freshman who doubles as the point guard on the basketball team. Augustana’s defense, ranked No. 6 defense in Division III, is highlighted by junior Emily Pavlik (28 draw controls, 38 ground balls, 18 caused turnovers) and athletic goalie Jenna Hoffman.

The Vikings’ roster boats players from Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Colorado and Minnesota, and the school from Rock Island is no longer on its own island in the Midwest. Programs like Mount Union, from Ohio, which won its first NCAA tournament game this week continue to pop up. Tisdale was one of the first to email Mount Union and congratulate them on their success growing the game.

“I wanted to thank [Raiders coach Emily Fisher] for doing it the right way and helping to change the idea of what Midwestern lacrosse is all about,” Tisdale said. “I hope our name is mentioned when people think about lacrosse in the Midwest.”

Looking Ahead

Salisbury Regional
Salisbury (19-1) vs. Augustana (19-0), 11:30 a.m.
Franklin & Marshall (16-5) vs. Geneseo (17-2), 2:30 p.m.

Augustana may be one of two undefeated teams playing in the tournament, but the Vikings will enter as heavy underdogs against Salisbury, the defending NCAA champion. The Sea Gulls have rolled since losing for the first time in two years at Cortland on Easter. On Saturday, they knocked Farmingdale St. out of the dance with an 18-7 victory. Shannon Carta led SU with two goals and three assists.

If Salisbury wins, it could set up a rematch of last year’s NCAA quarterfinal against Franklin & Marshall. SU eliminated F&M last season 8-6 in a game that was tied at halftime. But first, Franklin & Marshall will need to get past a tough Geneseo squad that, like Salisbury, has only lost to Cortland. Geneseo ground out a 5-4 victory over Stevenson in Round 1, when Katie Hart scored on a free position with 1:10 remaining. F&M cruised past Catholic 17-11 behind four goals from Brittney Jorgenson and 12 saves from Kelsey Hoffman.

Amherst Regional
TCNJ (16-1) vs. Washington & Lee (17-2), 1 p.m.
Amherst (17-2) vs. York (15-4), 4 p.m.

TCNJ has one loss, to Salisbury by three, and played one of the toughest schedules in the country. Since losing to Salisbury on April 12, the Lions have not won a game by fewer than 10 goals and they just dispatched Susquehanna, 19-7, behind six goals from Jen Garavente. Needless to say, it will be an uphill battle for Washington & Lee, the first ODAC team TCNJ will see this year. But the Generals come in just as hot as TCNJ. W&L has won 13 straight since dropping back-to-back games to Salisbury and Franklin & Marshall at the beginning of March. The Generals took care of Denison 13-5 in the first round, thanks in part to three goals and one assist from Carly Taglienti.

If the seeds hold. it will be a quarterfinal showdown between two teams that have won NCAA championships in the past: TCNJ and Amherst. Standing in Amherst’s way is York, which staged an epic comeback on Saturday, rallying for five straight goals before finally defeating St. John Fisher 13-12 on Erica Mulford’s winner with 1:22 remaining. The Spartans reward is a date with an Amherst team that has only lost to Trinity. The Lord Jeffs blew out Bridgewater State 20-4 in the last round, behind four goals and two assists from Caroline Holliday.

Cortland Regional
Cortland (20-0) vs. Redlands (14-4), 11:30 a.m.

Williams (14-4) vs. Colby (10-6), 2:30 p.m.

Playing its local rival for the fourth time this season in the NCAA’s first round, Redlands finally got an easy one against Pomona-Pitzer, jumping out to an early lead before downing the Sagehens 14-6. Jacky Craycraft netted three goals and two assists for the Bulldogs. Their reward is a cross country flight and a trip to Upstate New York to face a No. 1 ranked Cortland team that continues to look unstoppable. The Red Dragons rolled over Mount Union 20-5 in their opener, thanks to three goals and five assists from Erica Geremia and four goals and two assists from Kristen Ohberg.

The winner gets one of two tough NESCAC teams, Williams or Colby, which are meeting for the second time this season. The first one was a thrilling affair that the Ephs won in double overtime thanks to a pair of late goals from Rebecca McGovern. Colby has been a giant killer of late, storming into the tournament thanks to two wins over Middlebury in the last three weeks. The Mules defeated Plymouth State 16-5 to keep their season going. It was the 200th win for coach Karen MacCrate Henning. Williams survived a late scare from Wheaton in the first round and hung on for 9-6 victory. Alyssa Amos scored three for the Ephs.

Gettysburg Regional
Middlebury (12-5) vs. Gettysburg (17-2), 11:30 a.m.

Trinity (16-2) vs. Fredonia (12-6), 2:30 p.m.

The Group of Death claimed its first big victim on Saturday, when Fredonia clipped RPI 9-8. Juliana Kotas scored the winner with three seconds remaining to give the Blue Devils a showdown with Trinity, which has rolled since losing back-to-back games in early March. Trinity crushed Castleton State 16-4 on Saturday. Martha Griffin scored three goals for the Bantams.

Gettysburg and Middlebury looked headed for a quarterfinal showdown last season, before RPI shocked Gettysburg in the round of 16. Now we’ll get to see it a year later and a round earlier, in what should be this weekend’s premier game. Gettysburg just beat Cabrini 19-6 behind six goals from Katie Blumenthal. Middlebury rolled over Endicott 19-7, thanks to two goals and four assists from Mary O’Connell. Both Gettysburg’s Carol Cantele and Middlebury’s Missy Foote have led their teams to championships in the not so recent past, and the teams know each other well. Middlebury defeated Gettysburg last March by a score of 14-11.

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