DII women's lacrosse: Five teams to watch in the championships
And then there were 12.
Selection Sunday narrowed the DII Women's Lacrosse National Championship down to its final 12 contestants. Two six-team brackets will begin the grind to see who heads to Steph Pettit Stadium in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania to play for all the bragging rights.
Who are some of the contenders?
RELATED: Interactive bracket
The Panthers had a chance to win their third consecutive championship in Denver last season, but lost by one goal.
You can bet that they haven’t forgotten that.
Adelphi has established itself as the benchmark for DII women’s lacrosse, winning seven national titles since the first DII championships in 2001. As long as they are playing lacrosse, no matter what happened in the regular season, the Panthers have proven they are contenders for the title. They proved that once again, earning the No. 1 seed in the North Region.
Adelphi improved to 18-1 this past weekend, avenging its lone loss to conference rival Le Moyne, to win the Northeast-10 Championship. The Panthers are arguably the most balanced team in DII, with a top 10 offense and the best defense in the land.
Heading into the championship, Allison Johnson had one of the best freshman campaigns in all of DII. She led the Panthers and the NE10 in assists with 54. She added 39 goals for an NE10-best 91 points. Senior Jaqueline Jahelka helped fuel the NE10’s best offense with a team-high 62 goals, while chipping in 23 assists. She set the program's all-time goal-scoring mark in Sunday's NE10 championship victory. The reigning first team All-American picked up her second consecutive NE10 Player of the Year honor as well.
Of course DII’s top defense wouldn’t be as dangerous without a solid keeper in net. Hailey Peterson has been just that, second in DII with a .526 save percentage.
The NE10 has seemingly been Adelphi’s to lose over the past few seasons. Heading into the 2017 season, the Panthers had won six of the last seven NE10 championships.
The only team to beat them during that span was Le Moyne.
This season, the Dolphins defeated everyone in their path en route to a spot in the NE10 championships, including a 5-4 victory over then-No. 1 Adelphi on April 18 that boosted Le Moyne to the No. 1 spot in the IWLCA rankings. The Dolphins fell to Adelphi in the NE10 Championship on Sunday, but that doesn't lessen their impressive season. They earned the second seed in the North Region, giving themselves a first round bye.
As a team they score 12.95 goals per game. Vicki Graveline — the NE10 Midfielder of the Year — has been the Dolphins' best goal scorer. The senior scored a team-best 46 goals this season, including a pair of 5-goal performances. Combined with her 19 assists, she leads Le Moyne with 65 points.
The Dolphins defense has been key to their 18-1 season. The Dolphins outscored their opponents 230-99 in the regular season, second in DII with a 5.47 scoring defense.
When the opposing offenses did get past the defense, they rarely got past Hannah George. The freshman, who earned NE10 Goalkeeper of the Year, has been sensational in all 18 of the Dolphins victories. Her .534 save percentage is third in DII.
You can never sleep on Meghan McNamara's Pioneers. She led them to consecutive national titles in 2012 and 2013.
Now they've started up a new streak capturing their third straight East Coast Conference championship.
The Pioneers have done it behind one of the stoutest defenses in DII. They can thank junior goalie Olivia Kirk for their 6.42 scoring defense, landing LIU Post in the top five of DII. Kirk's career-day led the Pioneers to the ECC Championship.
The offense is paced by sophomore Ryan McKinney, who has a team-best 52 goals and 60 points. She's not alone, however, as senior Connor Bird has 59 points behind a team-best 19 assists.
You can’t leave off the defending champions, can you?
The Mocs did the unthinkable last year and brought a national championship to the Southeast, something that has been generally reserved for teams from the North Region. They became the first team south of the tri-state area to win a title, and came out looking for more this year.
Florida Southern slipped a bit out of the gates. The Mocs dropped two of their first five games, both to ranked opponents. The first was a rematch of Denver’s title game to Adelphi, and the second was to South Region No. 1 seed Lindenwood.
Since that Feb. 26 loss to Lindenwood, Florida Southern has gone 16-0. That includes a 6-0 record against IWLCA nationally-ranked teams and their second consecutive Sunshine State Conference regular season and tournament title sweep.
Florida Southern is led by their high-powered offense, one that finds them third in DII with a 16.90 scoring average. The Mocs have not one, but two 50-goal scorers. Junior Meghan O’Brien leads the team with 81 points on 53 goals and a team-best 28 assists. Senior Kendall Kerge is having a career season with 71 points, behind a team-best 59 goals and 12 assists.
There is also the experience factor. Seven of the Mocs' top scorers all played in last season's title match, with returners O'Brien, Kerge, Cayla Shawfield and Emily Santoli accounting for all eight of their goals. You can be sure that will come into play in the tournament.
The Lions found themselves in Denver last season playing for the championship. They would get knocked out of the tournament by Florida Southern.
They seemed to have taken it personally. Now, Lindenwood could be the 2017 version of the Mocs, ready to bring a title home to the South Region.
Lindenwood had a historic season for its program. The Lions came out of the gates hot, taking down three teams in a row that now find themselves amongst DII’s IWLCA top 20 rankings. They never cooled off, running the regular season table to a program-best 20-win season.
NCAA Tourney Bound for the fourth consecutive year! We will play in the NCAA quarters on Saturday, May 13 @ 5PM vs. the Queens/Regis winner. pic.twitter.com/1XGO073dBE— Lindenwood Lacrosse (@LUwomensLax) May 8, 2017
Sunday saw both of the remaining undefeated teams fall. Although they lost to Regis' DII-best offense in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament, they still earned the No. 1 seed in the South Region. The Lions now have time to regroup with a first round bye.
Lindenwood has an extremely balanced attack. Like Adelphi, it has both a top 10 offense and defense. Its offense puts up 16.38 goals a contest, while its defense holds opponents to 6.76 goals. A nearly 10-point differential is certainly dangerous this time of year.
The Lions' offense is tough to stop with six players recording 40 or more points this season. Senior Rachel Benzing leads the way with 29 goals and a team-best 29-assists despite missing some action this season. Junior Sophie Buelow — a 2016 third team All-American — was the Lions' leading goal scorer with 44.
Lindenwood had three goalkeepers make starts this season, but junior Rachel Ortell leads the way behind a 13-1 record. Owner of a .502 save percentage, Ortell will make it tough for any offense to score down the stretch.