The 2020 DII women's lacrosse season opens in familiar fashion. For the ninth time in the sport's 20-year history, the Adelphi Panthers enter the season looking to defend their crown. Adelphi won its ninth title in 2019, defeating West Chester 11-5.
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The Panthers have appeared in five of the last six national championship games, winning four. They have won consecutive championships on two different occasions and with DII national player of the year Kole Pollock back to lead a solid group of returners, the Panthers are an easy pick to repeat once again. Remember, this team was a three-seed in its own region last year that found another gear and became a goal-scoring machine in the NCAA tournament.
So, who has the best chance to take down Adelphi and play for the 2020 DII women's lacrosse title? Let's go around each region and take a peek at some contenders.
Atlantic: West Chester
The Golden Rams lost quite a few pieces to graduation but still return six starters from last year's run to the national championship game. Tatum Altman and Tara Morrissey will take over as the senior leadership, and with the 2019 team assist leaders heading the charge, West Chester is in good shape. Let's not fool ourselves: this program has appeared in 10 national championship matches and has won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference 22 times. East Stroudsburg and even Mercyhurst will challenge the reigning PSAC champs, but the Atlantic is Golden Rams country for now.
East: Le Moyne
Obviously, No. 1 Adelphi is the Beast of the East and the team with the largest target on its back in 2020. But all eyes should be on Le Moyne as well. The victors of the 2018 national championship game kept their winning ways rolling deep into the season, stringing together 26-straight wins — including a program-record 19-straight to open 2019 — from the 2018 Northeast-10 tournament to the 2019 NE10 tournament where the Dolphins fell 10-9 in the championship game. They'll have a new coach in Liz Bellville, but Le Moyne had four players score 40 or more goals last year and three of them — Nicole Delany, Erin McMullen and Sydney Hall — are back. The NE10, as always, is stacked and New Haven, Bentley and Assumption will make it tough, but we like the Dolphins recent history here.
Keep an eye on Mercy. The East Coast Conference front-runners are coming off a historic season, winning their first ECC regular-season and tournament titles before advancing to their second NCAA tournament ever. The Mavericks will be looking to mix things up in the East Region if they can get back.
Regis has been to the last two DII women's lacrosse championship semifinals — the only team to do so the past two years — each year better than the previous. Last season the Rangers went 20-1 — a three-win improvement from their 2018 campaign — including a perfect run through the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Elle Crawford is back in the cage after taking home RMAC Goalie of the Year and All-Midwest Region honors with top defender Sarah Kate Dohm in front of her. Regis will lose some scoring, but Ali Vanek and Kyleigh Peoples will provide plenty of firepower. We like both Lindenwood and Colorado Mesa as teams to watch, but Regis has proven it deserves the nod until someone can stop the Rangers from deep runs in the tournament.
South: Queens (NC)
This was not a fun part of the bracket to predict. If we had to guess, the four teams that will make the 2020 DII women's lacrosse championship bracket from the South would be Tampa, Florida Southern, Rollins and Queens (NC). Those are four of the top 10 teams in all of DII women's lacrosse, and they play in the same region.
Now, national championships don't generally come from the South Region, pretty much strictly a Northeast commodity over the sport's brief history. That said, Florida Southern won the 2016 title and was the first, and thus far last, team to win the title outside of the Northeast. The Mocs were then the national runners-up in 2017 and 2018, keeping them a perennial contender.
Tampa and Rollins are as good as any choices from the South, as the two tied with Florida Southern for the regular season SSC crown. The Spartans went on to win their first SSC tournament title in 2019 and return their top scorer in Carly Vaccaro and SSC player of the year Claire Swanson. The Tars? They are one of the few teams that have started the 2020 season and are 2-0...scoring 36 goals along the way.
So why Queens? Well, for one, the Royals don't have to beat up on each other all season like the above SSC foes do. But more importantly, they are coming off a 19-win season of historic proportions, reaching the national semifinals for the first time in program history. All-American Ally Blood — who scored 46 goals to go with 51 assists — is back to lead the offense while Chase Brokaw — a second-team All-American and the South Atlantic Conference tournament MVP — is back in the cage. Add in Kara Blanchard and Rachel Perrett — who both return from 50-goal seasons — and this team is locked and loaded for another run.