The irresistible force and the immovable object are in Garden City, N.Y. this weekend for the NCAA Division II Lacrosse Championship.
The truth is, they’ve been there all season.
No. 1 Adelphi has run roughshod over the competition all season long, and as the Panthers prepare to host the NCAA Division II and Division III Championships this weekend at Motamed Field, the two-time defending NCAA Champions bring a perfect record of 18-0 and a 23-game unbeaten streak that dates back to a 21-16 loss to C.W. Post in the final game of the 2010 regular season. All told, the Panthers have won 55 of their last 56 games during over the last three seasons, and are two games away from becoming only the fourth team in NCAA lacrosse history to win three consecutive championships, and the first in Division II.
However, many a long unbeaten streak has come undone in NCAA Championship play, and Limestone, Le Moyne and West Chester are coming to Long Island this weekend looking to stop the Panthers just short of the title.
Record: 18-0 (13-0 Northeast-10)
Ranking: No. 1 in May 9 IWLCA Division II Poll
Top Scorers: Junior midfielder Claire Petersen (53g, 118a), junior attacker Erica Devito (70g, 25a), senior midfielder Elizabeth Fey (55g, 21a)
Top Goalkeeper: Freshman Frankie Caridi (18-0, 5.61 goals-against average, .581 save percentage)
No fewer than 25 players on Adelphi’s roster call Long Island home, and they’ll have the opportunity this weekend to win the school’s fifth NCAA Division II Championship, and third consecutive, playing in front of friends, family and fans on their home field in Garden City.
The Panthers haven’t just won all their games in 2011, they’ve dominated their competition. They lead Division II in both scoring offense (21.63 goals per game) and scoring defense (5.67 goals per game), beating opponents by an average of nearly 16 goals per game. Their closest game this season was an 11-9 win against Le Moyne on March 23, in the Panthers’ third game of the season. Adelphi was more dominant when the teams met again in the Northeast-10 title game, taking home the championship with a 17-11 victory. The Panthers will hope that the third time is not the charm for the Dolphins.
Record: 18-2 (11-2 Northeast-10)
Ranking: No. 2 in May 9 IWLCA Division II Poll
Top Scorers: Junior midfielder Brittany Brigandi (82g, 18a), senior midfielder Rebekah Elmer (48g, 18a), senior attacker Michelle Phillips (42g, 16a)
Top Goalkeeper: Junior Kelly Fucillo (18-2, 6.01 goals-against average, .506 save percentage)
The good news for the Dolphins is that they were all but unbeatable this season when they weren’t playing Adelphi, winning 18 games by an average margin of victory of more than 12 goals per game. The bad news is that if LeMoyne wants an NCAA Championship in its first season in Division II, it’ll have to start with a win against the reigning champion Panthers in Saturday’s first semifinal.
The Dolphins will have the nation’s No. 2 defense on their side, as opponents have scored just 5.79 goals per game against Kelly Fucillo, who has played every minute in goal for LeMoyne this season and ranks sixth nationally in save percentage. Offensively, LeMoyne ranks fourth in the nation, powered by Brittani Brigandi, who is the top goal-scorer in this weekend’s championship, averaging 4.05 goals per game.
Record: 17-1 (7-0 Conference Carolinas)
Ranking: No. 3 in May 9 IWLCA Division II Poll
Top Scorers: Junior attacker Raquel Prager (53g, 6a), freshman attacker Sarah Oor (25g, 27a), freshman midfielder/attacker Jessica Aguanno (31g, 3a), sophomore midfielder/attacker Chelsea Treat (31g, 3a)
Top Goalkeeper: Sophomore Rashelle McLellan (17-1, 6.74 goals-against average, .549 save percentage)
The Saints were on the verge of matching Adelphi’s unbeaten season before falling to Rollins in their final game of the regular season. They could have a chance to bring the Panthers down in the championship game, but to get there, they’ll need a win against West Chester in the second semifinal game on Saturday.
The key for the Saints will be defense, as Limestone ranks last in scoring offense among the four teams in the Division II Championship, ranking 25th nationally with 13.33 goals per game. However, the Saints do allow just 6.33 goals per game, fourth in the nation and third among the NCAA semifinalists, led by Rashelle McLellan, who comes into the weekend ranked second nationally in save percentage behind Adelphi’s Frankie Caridi.
West Chester Golden Rams
Record: 16-4 (11-0 PSAC)
Ranking: No. 6 in May 9 IWLCA Division II Poll
Top Scorers: Senior attacker Shannon Hayes (18g, 51a), senior attacker/midfielder Claire Grimwood (52g, 13a), sophomore attacker Tori Dugan (46g, 13a)
Top Goalkeeper: Junior MacKenzie O’Keefe (12-4, 9.67 goals-against average, .447 save percentage)
The Golden Rams avenged one loss to get to Garden City for the NCAA Championship, beating PSAC rival Lock Haven two weeks after falling to the Lady Eagles in the conference championship game. Now, they’re looking to avenge another loss, as they’ll meet Limestone for the first time since dropping a 16-10 decision to the Saints on March 10.
West Chester ranks 16th nationally in scoring offense, and boasts one of the nation’s assist leaders in Shannon Hayes, who ranks 10th nationally and second only to Adelphi’s Claire Petersen among the participants in this weekend’s NCAA Championship. Defensively, West Chester ranks 12th in the nation and fourth among the national semifinalists, but more often than not, MacKenzie O’Keefe and freshman Jess Henderson seem to make the big saves when they’re needed.