NCAA Tournament Preview: Mariners Make A Return Trip To Salisbury For Opening Rounds Of 2019 NCAA Championship

NCAA Tournament Preview: Mariners Make A Return Trip To Salisbury For Opening Rounds Of 2019 NCAA Championship

Live Stats (Round 1 on Saturday)
Live Stats (Round 2 on Sunday)
Live Video (Both Rounds)
Complete Bracket – Interactive / Printable (PDF) 

KINGS POINT, N.Y. (May 10, 2017)  – After repeating as Skyline Conference champions last Saturday, the USMMA women's lacrosse team begins play in the 2019 NCAA DIII Championship with an opening-round matchup against the Lebanon Valley Dutchmen on Saturday, May 11 at 1 p.m. The game will take place at Salisbury University's Sea Gull Stadium in Maryland. The winner will take on the host Sea Gulls the following day on Sunday, May 12th at 1 p.m. 

Making The Trip Down To Attend?
If you are making the trip down to Salisbury for the opening round action, please note that admission will be charged for both games this weekend. General admission to enter Sea Gull Stadium for adults is $6.00, while students (with ID) and seniors are $3.00 and children are $2.00. You are also reminded that absolutely no pets are allowed into the stadium. 

Live Coverage For The Weekend
Salisbury will be providing live stats and a live video stream for both contests this upcoming weekend. Links will be available on the USMMA Women's Lacrosse Schedule Page. 

Countdown to 300
Senior Meredith Willard (Portland, Maine) is four points away from 300 for her career. Willard would become the first player in Mariner history to hit the 300-point plateau, as she is the program's all-time leader in points with 296. 

Like Player, Like Coach
Seventh-year head coach Kyle Simensky is making his second-consecutive trip the NCAA Tournament, as he guided the Mariners to their back-to-back Skyline Conference Championships. Simensky, who played at Cortland, also made three-straight appearances in the national championship game from 2006-08 and won a DIII National Championship with the Red Dragons in 2006. 

A Closer Look At The Teams
Merchant Marine Mariners- Record: 17-0 – RosterScheduleStats
Lebanon Valley Dutchmen- Record: 11-7 – RosterScheduleStats 

How They Got Here
The Mariners earned an automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Tournament after winning their second-straight Skyline Conference Championship last Saturday, May 4th, at home. They polished off the program's first-ever undefeated regular season at 15-0 overall, while remaining perfect at 7-0 in conference play to earn the #1 seed in Skyline Tournament. Merchant Marine cruised past #4-seed SUNY Maritime in the semifinals, 23-8, on May 1 before returning home to dominate #2-seed Farmingdale State, 22-5, to claim back-to-back Skyline Conference Titles. 

Lebanon Valley earned the automatic bid out of the MAC Commonwealth, defeating Stevenson 10-5 in the championship game. The Dutchmen finished with an 11-7 overall record and a 6-2 mark in MAC Commonwealth contests, which was good for the #2 Seed in the MAC Commonwealth tourney. In the conference tourney, the Dutchmen defeated #3-seed Messiah College at home, 16-12, on May 1 in the semis, before traveling to top-seeded Stevenson and knocking them off, 10-5, on May 4. 

This will be Lebanon Valley's first-ever trip to the NCAA DIII Championship, after capturing the program's first conference title. This is Merchant Marine's second trip to the NCAA Division III Championship, having reached for the first time a year ago and falling short in the opening round to Meredith. 

One Common Opponent
The only common opponent that the two teams share is King's College (Pa.). The Mariners defeated the Monarchs, 18-3, during their Spring Break trip back on March 6, while the Dutchmen rolled, 16-4, at Arnold Field back on March 19. Lebanon Valley competed against one team that qualified for the Division III Championship, having lost to York (Pa.) on March 13 by a 16-6 score. 

Meeting Lebanon Valley
This is the first time in program history that Lebanon Valley's seventh-year head coach Jackie Dando has brought the Dutchmen to the NCAA Tournament. LVC has won seven of their last eight contests en route to their first ever conference title. 

Lebanon Valley brings an explosive offense and a stout defense into Saturday's NCAA First Round matchup at Salisbury. The Dutchman are second-best in the MAC Commonwealth, allowing 179 goals on the season. They also rank third in the conference in goals (243), caused turnovers (174) and draw controls (247). 

The Dutchmen boast five All-MAC Commonwealth Selections led by sophomore attack Veronica Venezia, who earned First Team All-Conference honors after totaling a career-best 101 points on 50 goals and 51 assists through 18 games. 

Lebanon Valley's starting midfield features two 40-goal scorers in senior Makenzie Kelly and freshman Brittany Hathaway who have each found the back of the net 44 and 43 times, respectively. Kelly and Hathaway were both selected Second Team All-MAC Commonwealth. Sophomore midfielder Jaclyn Little is also having a career year with 35 goals, while senior Emily Federowicz has put away 24. 

Defensively, the Dutchmen are led by senior Jen Eck and sophomore Morgan Ernst who both earned First and Second Team All-Conference this year, respectively. Eck, who was named MAC Commonwealth Defensive Player of the Year this season, won a team-high 101 draw controls and caused 36 turnovers to lead Lebanon Valley. Ernst leads the Dutchmen defense with 54 ground balls and ranks third on the team with 20 caused turnovers. Junior goalies Hannah Oliveras and Leah Franklin have combined for 18 starts in 24 appearances this year. Oliveras started 11 of 14 games, with 99 saves and a 6-6 record. Franklin, made six stops and got the victory in the MAC Commonwealth Championship game, while posting 52 saves to go along with a 5-1 overall record. 

Merchant Marine's Perfect Season
Seventh-year head coach Kyle Simensky, the 2019 Skyline Conference Co-Coach of the Year, and third-year assistant Maegan Meritz steered the Mariners to a program-record 17 wins this season, along with a second-straight conference championship and return trip back to the NCAA Tournament. The Mariners are the last unbeaten team left in Division III women's lacrosse. 

USMMA enters NCAA Tournament with a top-five defense in Division III, allowing 4.94 goals per game, which is fourth in the nation, while their 84 goals allowed rank fifth in the country. Merchant Marine's explosive attack set a single-season program record this year with 290 goals. The Mariners smashed last year's single season mark of 262. They have recorded five 20-goal games, including three straight. 

The Mariners dominated the Skyline Postseason awards, with nine different players landing on the All-Conference Teams and Simensky garnering his second-straight Coach of the Year honor. 

Earlier this week, it was announced that the Skyline head coaches selected USMMA freshman Jesse Wohner (Norfolk, Va.) as the Rookie of the Year for her performance during a phenomenal first-year campaign. Wohner leads the Mariners and the conference in goals with 69. She also earned a spot on the All-Skyline First Team. Wohner has recorded a hat trick in all 17 contests this season. 

Willard earned Skyline Offensive Player of the Year as well as a First Team selection for the second-consecutive season. Willard currently leads the Mariners and the Skyline Conference with 94 points on 65 goals and 29 assists. She is six points shy back-to-back 100-point seasons, after posting a single-season record of 102 last year. The senior is also USMMA's all-time leader in goals and assists with 219 and 77, respectively. 

The Mariners also boast a pair of both 30-goal scorers and 20-goal scorers. Senior Jessica Reilly (Sayville, N.Y.), who earned First Team All-Skyline and junior Grace McHugh (Sturbridge, Mass.), an All-Skyline Second Teamer, both reached the 30-goal plateau this year, with 39 and 37, respectively. Reilly also has posted team-best totals in draw controls (94) and groundballs (59), and leads the Mariners in caused turnovers with 31, while ranking tops in school history with 128 CTs for her career. Senior Maura Malone (Yorktown, Va.) and freshman Maddie Schmidt (Mechanicsville, Va.), who were both named First Team All-Skyline, struck for 22 and 21 tallies, respectively, on the season. Junior Chelsea Chamberlain (South Setauket, N.Y.) and freshman Emily Abe (Arnold, Md.) have started all 17 games this season on defense. 

Senior goalie Hannah Gizzi (Finksburg, Md.), is the heart and soul of the Merchant Marine defense. The 2019 Skyline Defensive Player of the Year and four-time First Team All-Conference selection backstopped the Mariner defense with conference-best totals in save percentage (.549) and goals against average (5.33). She also is the program's all-time leader in wins (43) and saves (510). 

Looking Ahead
Salisbury University currently ranked #7 in the IWLCA Coaches Poll and will be making their 20th NCAA Tournament appearance and 17th in a row under 18th-year head coach Jim Nestor. The Sea Gulls have advanced to the NCAA Championship weekend 11 times in their program's history, including a loss in last year's NCAA semifinal. 

Salisbury earned an at-large bid into the tournament after a 16-3 regular season record, including a 6-3 mark in Capital Athletic Conference action, which was good for the #1 seed in the CAC Tournament. In the conference tourney, the Sea Gulls defeated #5-seed Christopher Newport at home on April 30, 22-11, in the semifinals, but lost in the championship game to #2-seed York (Pa.), 13-11, on their home turf May 4. 

Six Salisbury players earned All-CAC recognition this season. The Sea Gull offense runs through sophomore Alexis Strobel, the conference leader in assists with 62 and team leader in points with 78. Strobel earned First-Team All-CAC honors and buried 16 tallies on the season. 

Senior Gabby Mongno, who earned Second Team All-Conference and sophomore Emma Skoglund both hit the 40-goal plateau this season with 43 and 42 markers, respectively. Junior attacker Gianna Demato is posting a career year with 35 goals, while junior midfielder Taylor Poore has registered 28 and senior attackers Courtney Fegan and Lindsey Wagner both have 26 apiece. Wagner, who was named Second Team All-CAC, ranks second on the team with 35 assists and 61 points. 

Defensively, the Sea Gulls are atop the Capital Athletic Conference with 204 caused turnovers and 151 goals allowed. The backline is led by senior Martha Hutzell and juniors Kendall Bannon and Taylor Poore. Hutzell and Bannon both earned First and Second Team All-CAC honors, respectively, this year. Hutzell, who was named First Team All-CAC for the second-straight season, has recorded a team-high 67 draw controls and is tied for second on the team with 33 groundballs. Bannon achieved Second Team All-Conference honors for the second–straight season. 

The junior defender is second on the team with 27 caused turnovers, while her classmate Taylor Poore has forced a team-best 28. Junior goalie Skye Graham, who was recognized as First Team All-CAC for a second-straight season has stopped 122 shots and won 16-of-19 games she has started in. 

Merchant Marine's program began in 2013 and Lebanon Valley's was reinstated in 2010. Neither of the two teams have ever faced Salisbury in their histories. Salisbury has a long history in women's lacrosse, winning three of the last nine NCAA Division III Championships, while also appearing in four other National Title games since 2005.

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