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Jan. 12, 2016 — NCAA Division III Preview

Cortland State
The College of New Jersey

Lost in the fact that Cortland State spoiled a fairy-tale ending of Missy Foote’s career at Middlebury in the national semifinals was the dominance the Red Dragons showed on the way to winning last year’s Division III championship.

Cortland will make a strong run for Division III honors this season because of the reasons they won last year: attack, attack, attack. Leading point-scorer Kristen Ohberg (56 goals, 38 assists) returns along with 79-goal scorer Tara Monaghan. Junior goalie Jacklyn Beshlian, who won all of her 19 starts last year, is the incumbent in the goal cage.

Cortland was dominant in six of its seven postseason matches; the only team that gave the champs trouble was Catholic. And one big reason for that is returning junior midfielder Alexis Bosilovic. The only Cardinal to start every game last year, she led the team in draw controls with 95. In addition, last year’s leading scorer, sophomore Nicolette Crisalli (49-5) returns for Catholic. If there’s one other thing that CUA did well last year, it was playing cleanly. The Cards committed exactly one bookable offense a year ago. That’s right; one.

After a down year for them, Salisbury will debut a refurbished multipurpose stadium early this spring, and the Sea Gulls might have the kind of team needed in order to return to the Final Four. They’ll be looking for consistency, however; only one returning player — junior defender Kieran Kelleher — started all 18 games. Megan Wallenhorst (34-19) was the leading point-getter for Salisbury last season.

Another team with championship history, The College of New Jersey, is also looking to bounce back from what was, for them, a subpar 18-4 season that ended in the quarterfinals. Cortney Nataliccio (56-11) is the leading returning scorer. But where the Lions are going to have to win games is on defense. As a freshman a year ago, Elizabeth Morrison had 65 draw controls and led the team with 70 ground-ball pickups. She also caused 40 opposing turnovers.  Megan Devlin had 70 draw controls last year from her midfield position.

A team that could do major damage this year is York College, which had an unprecedented run to within a whisker of making the Final Four. Even with the graduation of Division III Defender of the Year Karlie Dougherty, the team still returns senior Megan Strauch on defense in front of goalies Charlotte Wright and Rachel Donovan, who split time in the goal cage. Allison Kolacy (20-26), Katelyn Cattrano (24-4), and Brittany Noell (27-0) are the Spartans’ returning scorers.

ALSO IN DIVISION III: One year after making it to the national title match, Trinity will still have attacking supernova Martha Griffin (82-23), but many of her supporting cast have graduated. Defensive leader Lindsay Mullaney has also graduated, but goalies Emily Mooney and Zoe Ferguson return. Depending on how the goalkeepers are handled, the Bantams may find themselves either in the penthouse or the doghouse. 

Middlebury, now headed by former Trinity coach Kate Livesay, will have to replace leading point-getter Katie Ritter (41-31). The team, however, returns the next 12 highest point-scorers, including Laurel Pascal (48-8). But I think the biggest transition in this program will be on defense. No close defender caused more than 12 turnovers for the entire season, a product of playing a sloughing zone defense. It will be interesting to see if Livesay coaches an active, high-risk defensive philosophy.

The revival of the Franklin & Marshall program after a hazing scandal was the story in NCAA Division III lacrosse a year ago, as the Diplomats made the Final Four. F&M return three of its four leading scorers from a year ago in Paige Moriarty (41-46), Grace Saliba (35-43), and Gabby Frank (53-19). If leading draw controller Anastasia Mergner (77) is able to add more goals to the attack end, watch out.

Hamilton, winners of the 2008 Division III title, is primed for another contending season coming in from NESCAC. Junior Morgan Fletcher (32-6) led the team in scoring a year ago and teammates Caroline McCarthy (26-5) and Margaret Gabriel (18-9) will join her in the attack end.

Coming in from the Centennial Conference, Gettysburg is always a dangerous team. Katie Landry (38-23) is the leading returning scorer as a sophomore. Draw-control maven Maggie Connolly (66) returns for her senior season.

DARK HORSE: Fredonia State. The Blue Devils played tough lacrosse against some very difficult opposition last year, falling a rung short of making the national semifinals. Only four players graduate, but they’re all on the attack end. Fredonia returns Audrey Yokopovich (31-3) on the offense, and it will be interesting to see what Amy Simon’s crew does for an encore. They start with a February friendly against The College of New Jersey, so they’ll know right away where they are.


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