LACROSSE MAGAZINE ONLINE: "Stonehill Must Ace Adelphi to Advance"

Sophomore Sarah Galligan leads the Skyhawks in scoring this season. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr).

Stonehill Must Ace Adelphi to Advance

by Chris Gentilviso | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

When the Stonehill women's lacrosse team entered its 2010 campaign, the Skyhawks expected the regular season road to grow a little tougher.

With Adelphi (16-1) joining the Northeast-10 conference, there was a guaranteed game against the defending national champions and an impending battle for the right to be named the conference's best.

The unexpected? That battle has lasted to when it really counts: the NCAA tournament.

"I feel like I know them almost as much as we know ourselves," Stonehill head coach Katie Lambert-Conover said. "Three times in one season? That's a lot to play one team, especially two weekends back-to-back in a tournament setting like this."

One week ago, the Panthers secured a 14-13 overtime victory in the NE-10 tournament championship, snapping the Skyhawks' streak of nine straight titles.

Stonehill (13-3) was on its way back to Easton, Mass., unsure of whether its season would continue.

Just after 10 p.m. Eastern, the NCAA committee hit the rewind button, sending the Skyhawks back to Garden City, N.Y. for a first-round matchup with the Panthers.

With the rivalry set to showcase its third matchup this season, Lambert-Conover sees a distinct advantage in having few surprises on the other sideline.

Head Coach Katie Lambert-Conover has guided the Skyhawks back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. She last appeared in the NCAAs as a player in leading Stonehill to its first National Championship her senior year in 2003. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr)

"That game last Sunday, we walked off the field knowing exactly what we have to do to win this time," she said. "Whether we do it or not, that remains to be seen. But I think we know what it takes to win."

A key to that victory will be breaking Adelphi's zone defense. Despite the Skyhawks' ability to keep pace on the scoreboard last week, the Panthers controlled ground balls, 56-33, and draw controls, 21-10.

For sophomore attacker Sarah Galligan, the experience of those two previous games has helped perfect the Skyhawks' gameplan toward maximizing their possession of the ball.

"We've been practicing it a lot this past week, just reviewing what's specific to their defense because it is so unique," said Galligan, who registered a hat trick a week ago. "We're understanding how to move the ball and break that zone."

Beyond showcasing certain strengths on the field, the Skyhawks feel poised to seize the mental edge on the field. Winners of 35 of its last 36 contests, Adelphi employs an aggressive style of play, which is boosted by a raucous home crowd. On the flip side, Stonehill is making its first postseason appearance since 2007.

But Long Island serves as home for several Skyhawks, including senior defender and captain Jaclyn Craig. The Rocky Point, N.Y. native knows plenty about the Panthers' winning attitude.

For two years at Rocky Point High School, current Adelphi head coach Joe Spallina coached Craig. The two maintain a strong relationship to this day, talking by phone whenever they get a chance.

But the senior has yet to achieve something big.

"We always joke around that 'our team's better and your team's not that good,'" Craig said. "But it's a lot of fun playing him and it has been my goal since he started coaching there to beat him. So this is my last chance."

As for the entire Stonehill team, the operative thought is another chance. All three of the Skyhawks' losses this season came against the nation's best in the Panthers (twice) and C.W. Post Pioneers, who will face the winner of Saturday's Adelphi-Stonehill matchup.

Thanks to the NCAA committee, Stonehill's section of the bracket is positioned for a collision course with both of those Long Island powers. And now that they're in, the Skyhawks are ready to win.

"We know the questions on the test," Lambert-Conover said. "We've studied pretty hard. So, we should be able to get a pretty good grade on this."

Division II News & Notes

Rounding out the women's first round is a matchup between two one-loss clubs in Limestone (18-1) and West Chester (17-1). The Golden Rams are 5-1 all-time against the Saints, including a win in their last matchup in the 2008 NCAA national semifinals. The NCAA has moved the start of this contest to 12 p.m. Eastern on Saturday... On the men's side, all four NCAA-bound programs will have a week's breather before their semifinal matchups on Saturday, May 22. Limestone (12-1) travels to Le Moyne (14-1), in hopes of avenging an 8-6 loss this season on neutral turf way back in early March. C.W. Post (14-1) will welcome Long-Island rival Dowling (12-1) back to Hickox Field, after the Golden Lions edged the Pioneers, 8-7, at the same venue in early April.