Club Women

March 8, 2011

Lindenwood's Last Roar in the WCLA

by Brian Logue |

Justiene Groothuis and No. 5 Lindenwood head to No. 1 Colorado for a big WCLA showdown on Saturday.

© Cecil Copeland

Playing against the best teams in the country is a great way for a coach to judge his team’s progress. When No. 5 Lindenwood plays at No. 1 Colorado in a big US Lacrosse Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WLCA) game on Saturday, it will be just one measuring stick for the Lions.

Lindenwood, which is transitioning to NCAA Division II status, is playing its final season in the WCLA. So, sandwiched around the showdown with the Buffaloes, are games against three future D-II rivals – Adams State, Mesa State and Regis. The Lions have six varsity teams on their schedule this year, including a March 29 battle at Rollins in Florida.

Next year, Lindenwood’s schedule will feature only NCAA Division II teams as the school moves through the provisional stage from the NAIA to the NCAA.

It’s a process that should be finalized by 2014, which is the year Lindenwood is likely to first be eligible for NCAA postseason play if all goes according to plan.

Lindenwood, located just west of St. Louis, will have to be a pioneer with no nearby Division II programs. Cribbin says that his program will be fully funded by the fall of 2011 and a $10 million facility for the athletic program that will feature locker rooms for lacrosse, academic support rooms and team meeting rooms will be ready by the fall of 2012.

But Lindenwood, which already left the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse League this year to give it greater scheduling flexibility, will be leaving behind the teams that it has developed great rivalries with after earning four straight national tournament bids.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” said Lindenwood head coach Jack Cribbin. “Our girls have loved the WCLA and competing in the national tournament each year. We know every game counts and we have to put together a good enough resume if we want to get selected.”

The move to NCAA Division II ups the timetable on a steadily building program. Lindenwood broke through to the WCLA semifinals last year, and matched a school record with 21 victories. Now, they’ve got one final chance to win a national title at this year.

They’ve started strong with a 4-1 record, including wins over two of the traditional heavyweights in the WCLA – Santa Clara and Cal Poly – at the Santa Barbara Shootout in late February.

“I was very proud,” said Cribbin. “It was our first time playing together. We have a lot of new players, and we were still seeing how people fit into different positions.”

Cribbin has not had to do much juggling at midfield where All-Americans Justiene Groothuis and Kathryn St. George are back and have played virtually every minute this season.

The offense has gotten a boost from a pair of junior college imports, attacker Lexi Crusha (Monroe CC) and Kara Cashen (Catonsville CC) while another juco product, Asia Woodside (Catonsville CC), is playing on the defensive side.

Senior Katie Griffin has been solid on defense, helping to break in freshman goalie Christine Hehmeyer, a St. Louis area student that has continued a pipeline from Ursuline Academy to Lindenwood.

Hehmeyer has impressed Cribbin with her calm and relaxed approach, but now she and the Lions are set to face their biggest challenge – a Colorado team that went 5-0 at the Santa Barbara Shootout with wins over No. 2 Florida Club, No. 3 UC-Davis Club and No. 8 Pittsburgh.

“They’re playing as good as anybody in the country and have definitely earned that number one spot,” said Cribbin.

It will be a chance to measure Lindenwood’s status against a program that Cribbin has looked up to since he became the school’s head coach in 2006.

“They’re always a strong program year in and year out,” said Cribbin. “Six years ago that was a team that would beat us by 20 goals. We started to close the gap and we’ve had some really competitive games with them.”

Lindenwood beat Colorado for the first time in 2009, and last year the schools split a pair of games. A victory in 2011 would help Lindenwood set its sights even higher as its closes out its run in the WCLA.

WCLA Notebook

• No. 3 UC Davis Club helped state its case as the best team in the ultra-competitive Western Women’s Lacrosse League with wins over No. 6 UCSB (16-6) and No. 12 UCLA (15-11) last weekend.

• Last year’s WCLA Division II champion, UC Berkeley Club, showed that it very well could be a factor at the Division I level this year. The No. 13 Bears took No. 12 UCLA to overtime before falling 20-18.

• Oregon beat Whitman and Boise State over the weekend to reach nine victories for the season. The Ducks, a participant in last year’s US Lacrosse WCLA national championship tournament, are not scheduled to play again until the Northwest Women’s Lacrosse League playoffs from April 16-17.

• The only other WCLA team with nine wins is No. 11 Texas, which beat rival Texas A&M 21-6 on Saturday.

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