March 23, 2016
Taylor Ryan scored two goals for Hamilton in its 10-9 win over Florida Southern. (John Strohsacker)
Taylor Ryan scored two goals for Hamilton in its 10-9 win over Florida Southern. (John Strohsacker)

WD3 Notes: Hamilton Wins A Rare Inter-Division Matchup

by Matt Hamilton | | Twitter

Hamilton coach Patty Kloidt planned most of her team's spring break by November. She wanted to play one conference opponent, Bowdoin, and another top Division III team.

There was only one problem. Kloidt couldn't book a second team.

"We couldn't find a team to play us down there," she said. "In Division III, there weren't enough teams going down."

The issue lingered into the IWLCA convention at Disney's Coronado Springs later that month, where Kloidt spoke with Florida Southern coach Kara Reber. Reber, coincidentally, was also looking for a spring game.

Per Reber's suggestion, Division III's No. 12 Hamilton played Division II's No. 10 Florida Southern on March 17. It was a rare inter-division matchup, but Kloidt took Reber up on her offer, despite potential differences in skill level.

"'Let's see how this goes,'" she thought in November. "I was more concerned ... if it was a huge physical difference between Division II and Division III players. I just didn't want our players to get hurt."

After making the trip to Bradenton, Fla., last week, they returned unbeaten with a comfortable 12-6 win over NESCAC rival Bowdoin on Tuesday and a close 10-9 victory over the Mocs on Thursday.

With two wins in three days against teams from two different divisions, the Continentals moved to 4-1 on the season and jumped up one spot in the Nike/LM DIII Women's Top 20. Hamilton junior midfielder Morgan Fletcher scored a combined six goals against Bowdoin and Florida Southern, whose team continued its hot streak with its fifth straight win on the road against Skidmore on Tuesday.

"Anything can happen," Fletcher said. "Beating a Division II team echoes that we can be the underdog, but we know to manage a game and finish with a win. It gives us confidence going forward. ... We kind of played like everyone expected us to lose, so why don't we win?"

Hamilton's winning tradition traces back to the 2008 season, when Kloidt led her team to a 21-1 record and the NCAA Division III national championship. In 2009 and 2010, the Continentials advanced to the final four before dropping out in the second round of the 2011 NCAA tournament. The following season, Hamilton moved from the Liberty League to NESCAC, a conference that features six national champions since 2000.

In its nine seasons in the Liberty League since 2003, the Continentals went 131-33 and won five straight conference titles from 2007 to 2011. But from 2012 to 2014, they went 22-26 overall and posted a 10-20 conference record. According to Kloidt, the transition into the NESCAC was a "culture shock."

"Our entrance into the NESCAC was a real wake up call," she said. "It's different [than] playing a couple of NESCACs in the NCAA tournament and being successful against them when we were still in the Liberty League. ... Playing in the NESCAC is like a two-month long NCAA tournament."

Last year, however, Hamilton finished 7-3 in conference play and 12-6 overall, qualifying for its first NCAA tournament since 2010 before falling to Middlebury in the regional semifinal.

Graduating only four players from the semifinal squad, expectations were high for 2016. Fletcher returned, as did senior attacker Margaret Gabriel, who had 18 goals and nine assists this past season.

While the Continentals have only one loss on the season – dropping 10-9 to No. 11 Colby, which is currently 2-1 in NESCAC play, in their home opener – Kloidt and Fletcher said it helped put this season into perspective.

"Collectively, I think it was good that we lost that first game because it kind of snapped us into reality," Fletcher said. "We ended our last season on a high note going to the NCAA tournament and I guess this season is just not going to be a breeze."

Of the team's five-game win streak, topping Florida Southern was a highlight to Gabriel.

"It was definitely a different feel," she said. "I can't really explain it. It was different style of play. Even down to the draw circle. No players in the NESCAC will run onto the line and run onto the draw circle, so we had to adjust to that. We had to start on the line and all the Florida Southern girls would start several yards behind us and run on to the ball when the whistle is blown. "

One of the key differences in the teams' play was speed, especially on the ride. Florida Southern increased pressure during Hamilton's defensive clears. While the pace of the game was an adjustment for the Continentals, Kloidt would recommend an inter-division matchup to any fellow Division II or III coach.

"We saw things in that game and we probably won't ever see in Division III," Kloidt said. "It was really kind of cool. Just the speed of play itself was really awesome for us. ... There are tons of Division II teams in Florida. It never hurts to reach out to them."

TCNJ moved up to No. 4 in this week's rankings after nipping No. 5 Gettysburg 10-9 in overtime on Saturday. (Kevin P. Tucker)

TCNJ Records Big Win

TCNJ moved into the Top 5 in this week's Nike/Lacrosse Magazine rankings with a 10-9 comeback victory over No. 5 Gettysburg on Saturday. Senior Cortney Natalicchio scored the game-winning goal with 1:39 left in overtime to overcome a 9-7 deficit at the 10:53 mark in the second half.

The Lions pressured Bullets goalie Shannon Keeler, who made five saves in a two-minute span, before TCNJ's Megan Devlin tied the game at 9-9 with 26 seconds remaining in the game.

Christopher Newport Jumps into Polls

Christopher Newport picked up its biggest win of the season on Saturday, blowing out previously undefeated St. Mary's 11-5, earning them the No. 18 ranking in this week's poll. The Captains also topped then-No. 10 Catholic on March 3. 

Meaghan Galvin and Sarah Culver each tallied a hat trick to lift Christopher Newport over St. Mary's. Goalie Emma Walsh made 10 saves.

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