Senior defender Jessie Ragnio and the Skyhawks defense will need to keep up its strong defensive play down the stretch in tomorrow's NCAA Tournament first round matchup at Adelphi. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr)
Stonehill lacrosse team opens NCAA tourney at defending champion Adelphi
The Skyhawks lost twice to defending NCAA Div. 2 champion Adelphi University, which is ranked third in the country, and they were defeated by top-ranked C.W. Post.
In order to get to the national championship game later this month, Stonehill will have to avenge those losses.
The sixth-ranked Skyhawks (13-3) open the NCAA Div. 2 tourney on Saturday by facing Adelphi (15-1) in Garden City, N.Y., at 12:30 p.m. The winner advances to the national semifinal round in Gettysburg, Pa., to play C.W. Post (17-1) on May 22.
Stonehill is back in the NCAAs after a two-year absence and is seeded No. 3 in the North Region.
“It's awesome,'' said Katie Lambert-Conover, a former Skyhawks standout player now in her third year as head coach. “That's certainly what you shoot for every year. I feel our heads are in the right place and we've put in the work this year. I feel like we deserve to be there this year.
“We're really just getting back to basics. They're all good, well-balanced, hard-working kids. I'm really lucky. I have an awesome group of girls. We haven't been blessed with 100 percent consistency, but I knew we had unbelievable senior leadership and we had a very, very talented freshman class. Those two things I knew. Whether it was going to mesh together, I had to wait and see.''
Stonehill went 10-1 in the Northeast-10 Conference, then lost to Adelphi, 14-13, in overtime in the tourney title game last weekend.
That was a vast improvement over the 16-9 loss the Skyhawks suffered to Adelphi on March 20 in the second game of the season, and now they are hoping to take the next step this weekend.
“We're very excited,'' said Lambert-Conover, who was on Stonehill's 2003 national championship team. “It was a great game last weekend. We're going to make some adjustments. But for the first time in a couple of years, I think we know we have the ability to beat them. We're all kinds of fired up for this game.
“We lost to them by seven two months ago. I'm really happy with the way we played last weekend. We played 60 minutes with 100 percent effort. We have some adjustments to make and we're working on them all week.''
Stonehill is led by five players who earned All-NE-10 honors this season, including first-team selections Jaclyn Craig, a senior defender who was an All-America pick three years in a row, Jackie Ladino, a senior midfielder who has 26 goals, and Sarah Galligan, a sophomore attacker who has 46 goals and 25 assists.
They have all helped lead Stonehill back to the NCAAs where it will be bidding for a third national crown in eight seasons.
“I have such great memories as a player here at Stonehill,'' said Lambert-Conover, who had 220 goals and 106 assists in her career. “As a coach, you spend so much time with these kids that they become a pretty major part of your life.
“I'm just so thankful we're able to give them an opportunity to experience something like this. It is a pretty special thing and you could never understand it unless you went through it yourself.''