By Matt Noonan | @MattyNoonz11
The first weekend of the NCAA Division III women’s lacrosse tournament is in the books, which means its time to focus our attention on next weekend’s third round and quarterfinals.
Similar to our men’s lacrosse notebook from yesterday, here are a few thoughts and takeaways from the opening weekend, which saw a few New England teams advance to the third round.
Keep your eyes on Tufts University: The Jumbos recorded their second shutout of the season on Sunday with an 18-0 win over Plymouth State to bump their overall mark to 17-2.
Tufts has become one of my teams to watch in this spring, especially after an impressive regular season, which saw the Powder Blue and White lose just once before falling to Middlebury College in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship.
The Jumbos have what it takes to advance to championship weekend, but face a tough task this Saturday against a talented TCNJ squad, which outlasted Colby College on Sunday in its second-round match-up.
TCNJ lost to Tufts earlier this season but rebounded with some important New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) wins, including a conference championship victory against Rowan University.
The Lions advanced to the semifinals last season but fell to Middlebury Colleg after beating Bowdoin College, Franklin & Marshall, and William Smith in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
If the Jumbos are going to beat the Lions and advance to the sectional finals, they will need a big performance from Emily Games (67 points on 52 goals and 15 assists) and Colette Smith (54 points on 40 goals and 14 assists).
Smith netted the clincher late in the second half in Tufts’ initial meeting with TCNJ, which helped the Jumbos squeak out an exciting 8-7 victory.
If Tufts defeats the Lions on Saturday, they will then need to duplicate their performance against the winner of St. John Fisher versus York College (Pa.).
Middlebury to meet Bowdoin in Third Round: After falling to Bates College in its season-opener, the Panthers of Middlebury have ripped off 18-straight wins, including a 22-3 second-round win over Johnson & Wales.
Middlebury will attempt to stretch its winning streak to 19 when they host Bowdoin College on Saturday.
Similar to Middlebury, the Polar Bear secured a first-round bye and defeated William Smith, 13-5, thanks to six points (five goals and one assist) from Fiona Bundy and five points (four goals and one assist) by Katie Miller.
Bowdoin’s Erin Morrissey and Aaliyah Biondo combined for seven saves on 12 shots in the team’s 10th win over the Herons.
Earlier this season, the Panthers outlasted the Polar Bears, 21-18, so don’t expect Middlebury to run away from Bowdoin on Saturday.
Middlebury outscored Bowdoin, 12-8, in the opening session of their lone match-up in March, while the Polar Bears outscored the Panthers in the second half, 10-9. Bowdoin led Middlebury, 8-3, in the first half, but surrendered a nine-goal run that provided the visitors with a four-goal lead at the break.
Jane Earley helped Middlebury beat Bowdoin by netting a team-high five goals, so she will certainly be needed again in this match-up, especially if the Panthers would like to advance to Sunday’s sectional final.
The winner of Bowdoin-Middlebury will advance to semifinals – I think they both can defeat Illinois Wesleyan or Franklin & Marshall.
Which New England team will advance to the national semifinals?
I still believe Tufts has a chance to compete for a national crown over Memorial Day Weekend, but they must get past TCNJ, which will certainly be a tough test for the Powder Blue and White.
Bowdoin or Middlebury certainly have what it takes to advance to the semifinals, too – I would say Middlebury first, Bowdoin second – but I wouldn’t overlook Wesleyan University, as well.
Wesleyan, however, faces a really challenging path to the semifinals as they would need to beat Washington & Lee on Saturday followed by most likely Gettysburg College, which is scheduled to face Denison University in the third round.
Similar to Tufts, I have enjoyed following Wesleyan this spring, so if they somehow find a way to the semifinals, then I think they can make it to the championship round.
Amherst College may have an easier path to the semifinals, but they will need to play their best lacrosse against Catholic University on Saturday in order to secure a sectional final meeting with either Colorado College or Salisbury University.