By Matt Noonan
Since their inaugural season in 2014, the Rhodes College women’s lacrosse team has been a squad to watch in the Southern Athletic Association (SAA).
Rhodes has captured six-straight league crowns and recently clinched its fifth-straight undefeated conference season when they defeated Berry College earlier this month by a score of 24-3.
The 21-goal victory over the Vikings was followed by an impressive 26-3 win this past weekend against Birmingham-Southern College, which provided Rhodes with a spot in Sunday’s SAA Finals.
Rhodes will meet Sewanee in this year’s SAA Championship with the winner advancing to next month’s NCAA Division III Tournament.
Sunday will mark the second time the Lynx and Tigers square off in the SAA Championship as Rhodes defeated Sewanee in 2015 to claim its initial title in program history. The three-goal (13-10) victory would be followed by Rhodes’ first-ever national postseason win against Meredith College.
Franklin & Marshall defeated the Lynx in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
Rhodes enters its seventh-straight conference championship riding a six-game winning streak, which began last month with a 19-8 victory over Transylvania University. Prior to their win over the Pioneers, Rhodes scored some impressive non-league wins against Colorado College (11-10 OT) and Illinois Wesleyan University (18-5). Additionally, Rhodes survived a shootout last month with Rowan University (17-15).
Emily Bruner is one of many players to watch on the Lynx – the junior attack from Gaithersburg, Maryland leads the team in points (103) and assists (90). Baylee Barker leads the squad in goals (62) while Payton Bennett has chipped in 51 goals and 21 assists.
Bruner’s 103 points are the most recorded by any SAA student-athletes while Barker and Bennett are in the Top 10 goals scored.
Sewanee’s Hattie Fogarty is also in the SAA Top 10 in goals and points and will certainly be a player to watch on Sunday after leading her squad to a 14-9 victory over Centre College in the SAA semifinals.
Fogarty concluded her team’s contest with the Colonels by tallying five goals on 11 shots to go with a season-high six ground balls.
Fogarty and the Tigers rank second in the SAA in goals scored with 287 but will face a challenging test on Sunday against the league’s best defense, which has yielded 124 goals in 16 contests (that is an average of 7.75 goals per game). Rhodes’ defense held Sewanee to a season-low six goals in last month’s meeting with the Tigers being shut out in two frames (second and third quarters).
In addition to Rhodes’ impressive attack and midfield, fans should certainly keep their eye on the squad’s goalies: Emma Bradley and Olivia Wood. The duo combined for nine saves in this previous meeting with Sewanee, and lead all SAA goalies in goals-against average.
Sunday’s championship, which will take place at Mason Field in Memphis, Tennessee, is scheduled to commence at 1 p.m. eastern.