February 11, 2016
Coming off a 79-goal season, midfielder Tara Monaghan is among the top returners for Cortland in 2016. (John Strohsacker)
Coming off a 79-goal season, midfielder Tara Monaghan is among the top returners for Cortland in 2016. (John Strohsacker)

Nike/LM NCAA Preview: Division III Women's Top 20

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | #LMRanks

Cortland reloads for a repeat, the Kate Livesay era begins at Middlebury, Salisbury lurks like a sleeping giant and Bowdoin is trending toward the final four.

But if 2015 was any indication, you can throw preseason predictions out the window in NCAA Division III women's lacrosse — especially in the South Region. Teams like York, Catholic and Washington and Lee blew up the rankings in the first month.

Near the end, however, it normalized. Thus, reigning NCAA champion Cortland, runner-up Trinity and Frankling & Marshall and Middlebury constitute the top four teams in the Nike/Lacrosse Magazine Top 20, with Gettysburg rounding out the top five.

Here's a closer look at the expected contenders for 2016.

1. Cortland

2015 Record: 22-1

Home: 13-0
Away: 7-1
Neutral: 2-0

The Red Dragons overcame years of falling just short and won it all in Kelly Lickert Orr’s first year at the helm. Even at the press conference following the championship, Lickert-Orr was talking about winning the next one.

2. Trinity

2015 Record: 21-2

Home: 13-0
Away: 7-1
Neutral: 1-1

The Bantams suffered no drop off at all in Katy Dissinger’s first season and reached their fourth consecutive NCAA final. Martha Griffin, who had twice as many points (105) as any other Trinity player last season, is ony of D-III’s most dynamic players.

3. Franklin & Marshall

2015 Record: 20-3

Centennial: 8-1
Home: 9-2
Away: 8-0
Neutral: 3-1

Any doubts about F&M being back were erased last season when the Diplomats beat rival Gettysburg in the Centennial Conference final and then returned to the final four. All that’s left for Mike Faith is an NCAA title.

4. Middlebury

2015 Record: 16-4

Home: 7-1
Away: 7-1
Neutral: 2-2 

New coach Kate Livesay knows Middlebury as well as anyone and Missy Foote will still be just down the road, so don’t think the Panthers will suffer any kind of setback in the first year of their new era.

5. Gettysburg

2015 Record: 16-4

Centennial: 8-1
Home: 9-3
Away: 5-1
Neutral: 2-0

The Bullets were sent home early in the NCAA tournament and then graduated their two leading scorers, but do have Katie Landry who had 64 points as a freshman and junior goalie Shannon Keeler, who starred at national power Moorestown (N.J.) in high school.

TCNJ sophomore Elizabeth Morrison was an All-American as a freshman. (Kevin P. Tucker)


2015 Record: 18-4

NJAC: 6-0
Home: 11-1
Away: 6-3
Neutral: 1-0

The Lions ended their season by winning 15 of their last 17 games, with both of those losses coming to Trinity. Sophomore Elizabeth Morrison (70 ground balls, 65 draw controls, 40 caused turnovers) was named All-American as a freshman. 

7. Salisbury

2015 Record: 14-4

CAC: 8-0
Home: 9-2
Away: 5-2
Neutral: 0-0

Injuries derailed the Sea Gulls’ quest for a three-peat last season. Three of their four leading scorers were underclassmen, so don’t expect Jim Nestor’s crew to be down for long.

8. York

2015 Record: 15-6

CAC: 7-1
Home: 9-2
Away: 5-3
Neutral: 1-1

The Spartans knocked Gettysburg out of the NCAA tournament and nearly stunned Middlebury a day later, but will need to jump over their geographic rival (Franklin and Marshall) and CAC rival (Salisbury) before they can crack the Top 5.

9. Catholic

2015 Record: 16-4

Landmark: 6-0
Home: 8-3
Away: 7-1
Neutral: 1-0

The Cardinals beat Salisbury in the regular season and nearly ended Cortland’s dream season in the NCAA quarterfinals. Even after graduating four of their five leading scorers, they’ll be in the hunt.

10. Bowdoin

2015 Record: 16-4

Home: 7-2
Away: 6-1
Neutral: 3-1

The NESCAC runner-ups return their three leading scorers: Lindsay Picard, Emma Beecher and Megan O’Connor. Don’t be shocked if the Polar Bears are back in the Final Four for the first time since 2011.

11. Tufts

2015 Record: 12-7

Home: 6-2
Away: 5-5
Neutral: 1-0

Seven of the Jumbos’ 10 leading scorers were underclassmen, including Caroline Ross, who racked up 75 points. If they make it through the NESCAC season intact they’ll be NCAA title contenders.

12. Amherst

2015 Record: 9-7

Home: 5-2
Away: 4-5
Neutral: 0-0

The Lord Jeffs lost by one goal to Middlebury in the NESCAC quarterfinals and if not for a late rally, it could have easily been Amherst instead of Middlebury in the NCAA making a deep NCAA run. Leading scorer Rachel Passarelli returns, as do three of their four leading scorers.

13. Fredonia

2015 Record: 17-4

Home: 8-0
Away: 6-4
Neutral: 3-0

The Blue Devils surged into the SUNYAC final and NCAA quarterfinals in Amy Simon’s first season, but they graduated Marissa Cussins (90 points) and Katie Kleine (85 points), the only players to record more than 44 points on the team. 

14. Washington and Lee

2015 Record: 16-3

ODAC: 10-0
Home: 10-1
Away: 6-0
Neutral: 0-2

The Generals, who graduated just three seniors from a team that beat Salisbury, return leading scorers Melissa Coggins and Lauren Procaccino and will once again be heavy favorites in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. 

Junior Taylor Ryan is among seven offensive starters returning for Hamilton. (John Strohsacker) 

15. Hamilton

2015 Record: 12-6

Home: 4-3
Away: 7-2
Neutral: 1-1

The Continentals have been tough to predict since moving to the NESCAC in 2012. Four of their losses were by two goals or fewer last year and they knocked Salisbury out of the NCAA tournament. If they find a way to win the close ones, they’ll be dangerous. 

16. Colby

2015 Record: 10-6

Home: 4-3
Away: 4-3
Neutral: 2-0

The White Mules opened their season by beating Trinity, but ended it by sitting out the NCAA tournament. With Abby Hatch and her 63 points back, they’re as likely as any to team to reach the NESCAC finals and make a run into the NCAAs.

17. Messiah

2015 Record: 14-5

MAC: 8-0
Home: 10-2
Away: 3-2
Neutral: 1-1

Leading scorer Claire Stikeleather is back, as is the Falcons daunting nonleauge schedule that will include games against Gettysburg, York, TCNJ and Franklin and Marshall.

18. Mount Union

2015 Record: 19-1

OAC: 6-0
Home: 13-0
Away: 6-0
Neutral: 0-1

The best of the Midwest opened the year with 19 straight victories before losing to Catholic in the NCAA tournament.The Raiders, who beat Fredonia last season, will try to establish themselves with nonleague challenges vs. St. John Fisher and Elizabethtown and another trip to Fredonia.

19. St. John Fisher

2015 Record: 14-6

Empire 8: 7-1
Home: 5-1
Away: 6-4
Neutral: 3-1

No matter what happens early in the year, the Cardinals always seem to find a way to win the Empire 8 tournament and its automatic ticket to the NCAAs. Jordan Johnson led the team with 54 points as a sophomore. 

20. Bates

2015 Record: 7-8

Home: 2-4
Away: 5-4
Neutral: 0-0

The NESCAC looms as tough as ever, but the Bobcats will go as far as IWLCA Goalie of the Year Hannah Jeffrey and leading scorer Moriah Greenstein take them.

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