Trinity Women's Lacrosse Opens NCAA Tourney Wednesday Night Against Bridgewater State
Hartford, Conn. - The Trinity College women's lacrosse team earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament with its dramatic 11-10 victory over Middlebury in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship Tournament yesterday afternoon. The Bantams will open the tournament at home on Wednesday, May 9 at 7 p.m. against the Bridgewater State University Bears, and the winner will play either Springfield College or Buffalo State College in the semifinals of the NCAA Regional Championships this weekend. Tickets for the game will be $5 for adults and $3 for students, while children under 12 will be admitted free of charge.
Trinity, ranked No. 4 in the nation, is 16-1 this spring, while the Bears are 12-7 after downing Westfield State, 6-5, on Saturday to win their fifth consecutive New England Women's Lacrosse Alliance (NEWLA) title. Trinity has now qualified for the NCAA Tournament eight times including four of the last five years, reaching the NCAA Quarterfinals all but once including the last two springs. The Bantams, under three-time NESCAC Coach of the Year Kate Livesay (6th Season), hosted the Bears two years ago in the NCAA First Round, winning by a score of 19-3. Trinity entered last year's NCAA Tournament with a perfect 17-0 mark, earning the event's only bye into the second round, and defeated Middlebury, 10-9, before losing to Bowdoin, 9-6, both on Sheppard Field.
Trinity joins NESCAC Runner-Up Middlebury, Amherst, which handed the Bantams their only loss this spring, 7-6, on April 25 in Hartford, and Colby as representatives from the NESCAC to make the tournament field. Trinity has a 4-1 record against the 31-team tournament field, having also won, 13-9, at Middlebury during the regular season, beaten Colby, 11-9, and won at Springfield, 12-6, on April 11. Trinity and Bridgewater State, which lost its only game against the NCAA Field, 15-8, against Fredonia State in Florida on March 9, do not share a common opponent.
Junior attacker Kaitlin Hildebrand (Berwyn, Pa.) scored the game-winning goal with 4.7 seconds left to give Trinity its second consecutive NESCAC title yesterday, after rookie midfielder Lindsay Mullaney (Boston, Mass.) had tied the game, 10-10, inside of 10 minutes with just the third goal of her collegiate career. Classmate Hadley Duncan (Rye, N.Y.) finished with four points on three goals and one assist for the Trinity offense, while Hildebrand, who scored in the final two minutes to force overtime in Trinity's 9-8 semifinal win against Hamilton, notched two goals and one helper, and senior co-captain midfielder Liz Bruno (Andover, Mass.) recorded three assists and a game-high five draw controls. Trinity junior Olivia Whitney (Danvers, Mass.) stopped five shots to improve to 14-1 this season and 25-2 in her career in the cage.
Trinity ranks second in scoring among NESCAC teams with 12.29 goals per game, featuring a balanced attack with just Duncan appearing amidst the top ten in the league in points with 53 points (3.12 per game) on 49 goals (2.88 per game, 3rd in NESCAC) and four assists. Junior midfielder Megan Leonhard (Summit, N.J.) has 42 goals (2.47 per game, 8th in NESCAC) and senior attacker Caite Irvine (Westwood, Mass.) adds 40 goals (10th in NESCAC). Bruno is the sixth-leading assister in the NESCAC with 23 (1.35 per game) to go with her 18 goals for 41 points, while Leonhard has six assists for a total of 45 points, and Irvine adds four assists for 42 points. Bruno is a three-time All-American, while Leonhard and Irvine were 2011 First Team All-Americans and 2010 Third Team All-Americans, respectively. Bruno leads the squad in draw controls with 44 and caused turnovers with 38, while Leonhard boasts a team-high 40 ground balls.
Whitney is fourth among conference goalkeepers with a 7.71 GAA on 120 goals allowed to go with 77 saves. Six different Bantams have 20 or more points this spring, as sophomore attacker Shea Kusiak (Longmeadow, Mass.) adds 13 goals and 11 assists, and first-year midfielder Caroline Hayes (Greenland, N.H.) is Trinity's top-scoring rookie with 22 goals and three assists. Hildebrand, who had 20 goals in 2011, has provided scoring punch off the bench since returning from an early-season injury with seven goals and five assists in seven games, while junior Haley Thompson (Ipswich, Mass.) is a versatile and valuable attacker who contributes in all facets of the game. Senior co-captain defender Elizabeth Beckler (Potomac, Md.) leads a tough and consistent Bantam defense that has four members who have each started all 17 games this spring. Juniors Mallory Hinman (Longmeadow, Mass.) and Hillary McNamara (Milton, Mass.), who switched smoothly from attack to the back this season, and sophomore Lyndsey Shepard (Hamilton, Mass.) have combined for 111 ground balls and 66 caused turnovers, including 35 grounders and 26 turnovers caused by Hinman.
Bridgewater State will be making its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance and fourth overall (2003, 2010-2012). Under the guidance of first-year head coach, Paula Habel, the Bears went 8-0 in NEWLA play during the regular season to earn the top seed in last week's conference tournament. Bridgewater downed Fitchburg State, 13-2, in the semifinals before edging Westfield. The Bears are led by NEWLA Defensive Player of the Year, junior defender Shelby Farland (Fiskdale, Mass.), and fellow all-conference selections sophomore midfielder Taylor Clancy (Braintree, Mass.), freshman attack Riley Cachelin (Westwood, Mass.), junior midfielder Michelle Navoni (Mansfield, Mass.), sophomore attack Melanie Appleman (Hyannis, Mass.) and sophomore defender Braylan Wenzel (Buzzards, Bay, Mass.). Farland heads into the tournament with 40 ground balls, 15 controlled draws and 11 caused turnovers to go along with eight goals and three assists, while Clancy leads the Bears in scoring (51 pts.), goals (42), ground balls (61), draws (67) and caused turnovers (28). The Bears goaltending tandem of sophomore Victoria Moore (Duxbury, Mass.) and freshman Jessica Polaski have backstopped the Bears to a solid 8.07 team goals against average with a combined 115 saves.