May 22, 2010

By Jeff Seidel
Special to

GETTYSBURG, Pa.-Adelphi and Franklin & Marshall will try and repeat as national champions in their respective national women's lacrosse tournaments this weekend at Gettsyburg College.

Adelphi (Garden City, N.Y.) seeks its fourth Division II title in the last seven years. In addition to winning the 2009 championship, the Panthers also captured titles in 2004 and 2005.

The Panthers (17-1) meet C.W. Post (16-1) in a national semifinal at 8 p.m. Saturday. The winner takes on either Lock Haven (16-1) or West Chester (18-1), who clash in a 5 p.m. semifinal

Franklin & Marshall (Lancaster, Pa.) has found similar success in Division III, winning national championships in 2007 and 2009. The Diplomats lost to Hamilton in the 2008 championship game.

Those two teams are going to meet again in the Final Four- this time connecting in the semifinals. Franklin & Marshall (16-3) takes on Hamilton (20-0) in Saturday's first semifinal at 11 a.m. The winner meets then either Salisbury (19-1) and Gettysburg (18-3), which play at 2 p.m.

The Division III championship game is set for noon on Sunday followed by the Division II title match-up at 3 p.m.

There are a number of advantages each team brings into the semifinals. In Division III, Gettysburg is trying to win its first national title - and the Bullets are making their fourth trip to the national semifinals.

That's why Gettysburg coach Carol Cantele is hoping a Final Four at home could give her team a boost.

"I've got a different feeling, and I think a lot has to do with the venue that we're playing in," Cantele said. "The one thing that separates these teams is this is our home field, and that is huge. We know every nook and cranny of this place, and I think that's an advantage going in."

Gettysburg went 9-0 in the regular season in the Centennial Conference before losing to Franklin & Marshall in the conference title game. The Bullets made the tournament thanks to an at-large bid, and this is the second straight season they've played Salisbury in the national semifinal.

Salisbury is still looking for its first championship after making seven trips to the Final Four.

"First and foremost, we're looking forward to it and we're prepared," said Salisbury coach Jim Nestor. "We need to come out and execute properly from the first whistle to the last."

Franklin & Marshall's experience in the big games should help the Diplomats. Goalie Lidia Sanza has been spectacular in the tournament so far, giving up just six goals.

That follows a solid regular season where Sanza led Division III with a 6.08 goals-against average.

Hamilton is the only unbeaten team remaining in collegiate lacrosse-among men and women and in all three divisions.

The Continentals have good balance on offense and defense. Goalie Kate Fowler leads the top defense in Division III (they gave up 5.85 goals per game). Sarah Bray leads the offense with 73 points.

In Division II, Adelphi comes in as the team to beat, but it has a tough semifinal match-up with C.W. Post.

The Panthers went 18-0 last season en route to the title, and they're 17-1 this spring with 23 returning letter winners. The Panthers are ranked first in the nation in goals per game (21.5), fifth in scoring defense (6.94 goals-against average) and near the top in many other statistics.

Claire Petersen helps the offense go with her 46 goals and 76 assists. Elizabeth Fey (56) and Erica Devito (53) also help with scoring.

But C.W. Post is the only team that's stopped the Panthers, claiming a 21-16 victory earlier this season. This is the Pioneers' ninth trip to the tournament in the 10 years it has been held. That's more than any other team.

The Pioneers won it all in 2007.

West Chester won the title in 2008 and reached the national title game five straight year (2004-2008) before missing the tournament last year. Nicole Haines (66 points) will be a big part of the offense.

Lock Haven is trying to go one step farther than last year when the Eagles fell in the national title game. They got off to a good start this season by winning their first 14 games before losing to Mercyhurst, 11-10.

Leigh Titus leads the team with 69 goals and ranks second with 87 pionts. Goalie Kira Nuttall was one of the country's best this season.