UMBC's run at NEC crown has more on line: NCAA berth

3-time league champions have never made tourney

May 03, 2001|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

For UMBC, a lot more hinges on this week's Northeast Conference women's lacrosse championship than any of the previous three titles the Retrievers have won.

A victory in Saturday's conference final at Monmouth would give the Retrievers an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and send them to their first appearance in the tournament, which expands to 16 teams this season.

"The automatic bid does make it tougher," said Retrievers coach Monica Yeakel, whose team opens with Wagner in today's semifinal. "Everybody knows what is riding on this win, so I expect every team to up its level of play."

The Retrievers know they must play better than they did during the regular season to pull out a fourth straight title. They suffered their first conference loss since the Northeast initiated women's lacrosse in 1998 when they fell to Monmouth, 10-9, on April 7.

The loss came just after the Retrievers went through the toughest part of their schedule, falling to then-No. 6 Loyola, No. 1 Maryland, then-No. 10 Virginia and then-No. 16 Old Dominion.

"That was a low point in the season," said Yeakel. After the losses, "we were a little flat and a little deflated, but we try to look at it in a positive way. That was a wake-up call for us. Then we turned the season around a little bit and started playing together."

Since the Monmouth loss, the Retrievers (9-6, 5-1 conference) have won seven of eight games, polishing off the regular season with a 22-5 romp over conference foe Central Connecticut.

The Retrievers have also overcome a wave of injuries with seven players, who would be vying for starting spots, sidelined.

Still, they have a lot of veterans left to carry the load. Senior Renee Tirocchi leads the team with 42 goals and eight assists followed by juniors Jamie Gerhart (21, 13) and Ashley Staines (25, 7) and senior Amanda Eldridge (16, 10). Seniors Kim Brown, Molly Buzdygon and Michelle Clancy anchor the defense along with senior goalie Amy Jagoda.

Jeffs booster

Friends graduate Molly O'Connor has been pivotal in No. 2 Amherst's run at the New England Small College Athletic Conference championship.

O'Connor, a sophomore defensive midfielder, scored a goal in Tuesday's 16-5 win over No. 7 Connecticut College, which sent the Jeffs (13-1) to Saturday's semifinals vs. Williams.

On Saturday, O'Connor contributed two assists as the Jeffs won their regular-season game with Williams, 8-7.

The Jeffs, who play the most difficult schedule in Division III, are after the NESCAC champion's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. To get it, they will have to beat No. 1 Middlebury (12-0), the 1997 and '99 national champion, which dealt the Jeffs their only loss this season, 18-11, on April 7.

News and notes

Johns Hopkins junior Erin Wellner has scored at least one point in 30 straight games since March 5, 2000. She is within two of Danielle Maschuci's record set last season. ... Liberty graduate Krista O'Brien set a Susquehanna University record for goals in a single season with 48. The junior already holds the records for career goals (126) and career points (168). ... Georgetown senior Sheehan Stanwick (Notre Dame Prep) broke her own school record for points in a season with 79, bettering her 77 from 1999. With eight points in two games last week, Stanwick earned Big East Offensive Player of the Week honors for the third time this season.

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