Club Women

January 10, 2014

#LMRanks: Preseason WCLA DII Top 20 Breakdown

by Brian Logue | | Twitter

Defending champion James Madison is our preseason No. 1 for the WCLA's DII, with Santa Barbara City College also earning a spot in our Top 20. (Cecil Copeland)

The Mid Atlantic Women's Lacrosse League (MAWLL) dominated the US Lacrosse Women's Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WCLA) Division II last year, and based on the preseason rankings you can expect more of the same in 2014. Four of the top five teams in the preseason poll hail from the MAWLL, including defending national champion James Madison Club.

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III, and NJCAA and club men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown and on Twitter at #LMranks.

Here's a breakdown of the preseason Top 20:

1. James Madison Club

JMU's first trip to the national tournament was a memorable one, as the Dukes downed Utah to win the national championship. Several of the key cogs are back from that championship team, including Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Player of the Year Julia Joo, and Jennifer Perry, the outstanding midfielder at last year's national championship.

2. Utah

Utah has played in three straight WCLA national tournaments, and last year took its biggest step by reaching the championship game. With four underclassmen, including defender Traci Shurtleff, earning All-America honors last season, the Utes will be in contention for the national title again this year.

3. Duke Club

Duke started last season 13-0 and its only two losses all year came to the two teams that played for the national title – JMU Club and Utah. Duke was extremely young last year with 12 freshmen, three of whom earned all-tournament honors at the national championship (Melissa Frio, Meghan McAneny and Malia Stephens).

4. Loyola (Md.) Club

The Greyhounds, national runner-up at the first WCLA Division II championship in 2010, were back in the tournament for the first time since that run and almost took down JMU Club in a wild semifinal game that the Dukes eventually won 14-13. Loyola had four first team All-Americans last year with two expected back – senior goalie Molly Burnett who dominated at nationals, and attacker Ali Rose.

5. North Carolina Club

UNC's bid for a second straight national title went off the rails with a first-round upset loss to Loyola at last year's nationals. With three returning all-league players, including Mary Morgan Bitler, one of the key stars of the 2012 championship team, UNC should be in the running.

6. Oakland

Oakland is the only school to have played in all four the WCLA Division II national tournaments and the Grizzlies have plenty of weapons to return again in 2014. On offense, junior attacker Brie Johnson is a two-time All-American and at the other end, senior goalie Lauren Pattah is also a two-time All-American.

7 Southern Methodist

SMU missed the WCLA national tournament for the first time last season, but still had a solid 9-3 season. Jackie Gamper and Kate Urquhart both earned first team All-America honors as juniors on defense last year.

8. Dayton Club

Dayton is coming off of a 10-4 season, that included two overtime losses and three one-goal losses. The Flyers also battled perennial WCLA power Oakland tough in the WCLL playoffs. Defender Nikki Hinkebein is a returning All-American and goalie Maggie Fuggi was the WCLL Co-Rookie of the Year.

9. Gonzaga

Gonzaga lost a two-goal game to Duke the first day of the season, and then didn't lose again, finishing with a 12-1 record. The Bulldogs didn't make it to nationals, but that could change this year. Jacyee Slack was named the WCLA Midfielder of the Year, and Katie Mincin and Katarina Habelt also earned All-America honors last year.

Utah, runner-up a year ago, enters at No. 2, while Minnesota-Duluth is No. 10. (Cecil Copeland)

10. Minnesota-Duluth

The Bulldogs finished seventh at last year's WCLA nationals, the program's fourth national bid overall and second in Division II. Midfielder Kate Strassman earned all-tournament honors at nationals.

11. Denver Club

Denver's 9-5 record last year was its best in the last several seasons and the Pioneers are looking to get back to the WCLA nationals for the first time since 2010, when it finished sixth in the country. The Pioneers had just one senior on the roster last year, and should be much more experienced in 2014.

12. Georgetown Club

Georgetown went 7-4 last year and showed its competitiveness by playing eventual national champion James Madison close in a 15-11 loss. Georgetown has posted winning records in each of the last five seasons.

13. Stanford Club

One year after reaching the WCLA national tournament for the first time ever, Stanford went 5-2 in 2013 to earn a national ranking. Junior Kendall Cody is the top returning scorer for the Cardinal.

14. Cornell Club

Cornell's only loss last year came at the end of the season to an unbeaten Vermont team in the New England Women's Lacrosse League final, and the Big Red finished last year in the rankings where they'll start out this year – at No. 14.

15. UC Santa Cruz

The Banana Slugs went 10-4 last year and won the Western Women's Lacrosse League Division II title. In 2014, they return their leading scorer (Rebecca Giessler) and standout goalie Aly Tyree.

16. Utah State

Utah State took a giant leap forward in 2013, winning six games during the season, and was rewarded by becoming an official club sport at the school last May. The Aggies look to continue the progression in 2014.

17. UNLV

UNLV is coming off of a 7-5 season which included wins over Stanford and Santa Barbara City College, and a one-goal loss to UC Santa Cruz, but the Rebels have to rebuild in 2014. Three all-league players have graduated.

18. Santa Barbara City College

Santa Barbara City College competed at the WCLA nationals last year and goalie Briki Cajandig stole the show, making 52 saves in three games, including 22 against national champion James Madison. With WCLA Rookie of the Year Megan McCullough back along with nearly 20 newcomers, the Vaqueros should be in postseason contention again.

19. Lake Forest

Lake Forest's 18 victories last year was the second most of any team in the country, trailing only Utah's 22. Melissa Paluch earned WCLL Co-Rookie of the Year honors and was one of four players on the team to earn second team All-America honors.

20. Vermont Club

Vermont completed the first unbeaten season in club history by beating Cornell Club 11-9 in the championship game of the New England Women's Lacrosse League. The NEWLL did not have an automatic bid to last year's nationals, but Vermont hopes to be in the running for a bid in 2014.

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