By Matt Noonan
The time has come to crown not one, but two NCAA Division III lacrosse champions.
This weekend, six teams – four women’s and two men’s – will contend for the ultimate prize of a national championship.
But before the games commence, it is time to share my picks – well, more my thoughts, to exact, as to who I think will win this year’s titles.
Let’s begin with the four teams competing for the women’s national championship in Salem, Virginia.
Middlebury College over Gettysburg College: It’s too bad this matchup had to occur in the semifinals – it would have been great to see both teams square off on Sunday in the championship.
This weekend will be the last time Carol Cantele and Barb Jordan will pace the Gettysburg sidelines – the Bullets enter the last weekend of the season with a 13-game winning streak.
Cantele credits the opponents her team faced two months ago to prepare her squad for a challenging postseason run, which began with an extra session win over Roanoke College in the second round.
Jordan Basso is the player to watch on Gettysburg – the sophomore attack from Rye, New York leads the Orange and Blue in goals (65) and points (101).
Middlebury was idle last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but their championship momentum from 2019 has remained with the Navy Blue and White, which is seeking its eighth title in program history, as well as its third crown since 2016.
The Panthers’ defense has been a unit to watch this postseason. They have limited its three postseason foes to six goals or less, and have received a major boost from goalie Annie Enrietto, who has turned aside 21 shots in her team’s last three contests. She denied 11 shots on Sunday during her team’s second meeting of the season with Colby College.
Tufts University over The College of New Jersey (TCNJ): TCNJ’s path to championship weekend wasn’t an easy one.
The Lions had to beat three teams, including Salisbury University and SUNY Cortland in back-to-back games last weekend, which is not an easy task. But perhaps their wins over the Red Dragons and Sea Gulls will provide TCNJ with enough momentum to beat Tufts, a squad that has ended the Lions’ last two postseason trips.
Like TCNJ, Tufts enters its semifinal matchup with a great deal of momentum, which began after the team’s last setback to Amherst College in April. After losing to the Mammoths in overtime, the Jumbos have been on a roll, winning their second-straight New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament crown while scoring three impressive postseason wins.
Perhaps the Jumbos’ most impressive win of the postseason came on Sunday evening as Tufts converted seven of 12 free position goals against Franklin & Marshall to clinch its third trip to the semifinals since 2019.
Last season, the Jumbos came close to winning their first-ever national title but saw their hopes dashed by an extra Salisbury tally by Delaney Hill. Tufts would respond, netting three-straight goals in less than two minutes, but its final marker by Caroline Walter concluded the Jumbos’ comeback.
The loss to Salisbury, along with an extra session defeat to Amherst might be enough motivation for Tufts to find a way to beat TCNJ for the fourth time in the last three years.
Middlebury over Tufts in the 2022 NCAA D-III Title Game: Get ready for an all-NESCAC championship.
Middlebury and Tufts almost met in the title round three years ago when both teams appeared in the national semifinals. But Tufts saw its season conclude against Salisbury, which would then fall to Middlebury in the championship.
So, let’s try this again.
Middlebury beat Tufts earlier this spring by seven goals, thanks to a four-point (three goals, one assist) effort from Jane Earley, along with a hat trick by Susan Rowley.
Tufts would win the next meeting by one goal when the two teams met in the NESCAC Championship earlier this month. The Jumbos’ defense highlighted the win, especially at the very end as the unit denied a pair of free-position attempts by Hope Shue.
The Jumbos’ 9-8 win over the Panthers snapped Middlebury’s 42-game winning streak, which began with a 16-1 victory over Springfield College on March 8, 2019.
Since falling to Tufts, Middlebury has looked impressive. They tallied 22 goals in back-to-back games against SUNY Geneseo and the University of Chicago, before relying on its defense to slow down a Colby squad that had produced 33 goals in back-to-back postseason contests.
While Tufts’ run to the national semifinals has been exciting – and yes, impressive, too – it just seems like their luck or momentum will disappear in the third meeting with Middlebury, which seems determined to conclude its current campaign with some hardware.
Union College over Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT): Who doesn’t like an underdog story?
Union may not be the favorite, but it seems as if many within the D-III world are pulling for the Dutchmen to win their initial national championship.
The Dutchmen have enjoyed an impressive season, winning 18 of 20 contests with perhaps their most exciting wins occurring last weekend over Gettysburg College and York College. Both wins were exciting but also proved this year’s Dutchmen can win a championship.
For Union to complete its storybook season with a title, they will need to find a way to slow down an RIT squad that has produced 20 goals or more in four postseason contests this spring.
The Tigers won their first-ever championship last year by outlasting Salisbury in double-overtime.
RIT has beaten Union in its last 20 meetings, including an NCAA Tournament clash in 2019. The Tigers won both meetings last spring, including an 11-9 victory in the Liberty League (LL) semifinals.
Marley Angus highlighted RIT’s one-goal win over Union last month as the senior midfielder concluded the game with four goals, two assists, and two ground balls. Keaton McCann led Union with five goals on eight shots.
McCann has been a player to watch on Union this postseason. The senior attack from Briarcliff, New York has recorded three goals or more in four contests while netting the game-winner last Saturday against Gettysburg.
NCAA D-III Championship Weekend Schedule
WLAX D-III Semifinal: Middlebury vs Gettysburg on Saturday, May 28 at 12 p.m.
WLAX D-III Semifinal: Tufts vs. TCNJ on Saturday, May 28 at 3:00 p.m.
MLAX D-III Championship: RIT vs. Union on Sunday, May 29 at 1 p.m.
WLAX D-III Championship: Middlebury/Gettysburg vs. TCNJ/Tufts on Sunday, May 29 at 3:30 p.m.
All three women’s games will occur in Salem, Virginia while the men’s championship will take place in East Hartford, Connecticut.