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Wesleyan Prepares for NCAA Final Four in Virginia

Photo by Jonas Powell '18
Photo by Jonas Powell '18

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – The quest for their first national title continues this weekend when the eighth-ranked Wesleyan women's lacrosse team takes on No. 3 Middlebury in the NCAA Division III Semifinals on Saturday, May 25 at 11:30 a.m. on the campus of Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. Randolph-Macon and Richmond Region Tourism will serve as hosts of the Championship, with the other Semifinal game featuring No. 4 Tufts and No. 7 Salisbury at 2:30 p.m.

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The winners of Saturday's games will advance to the Championship Game on Sunday, May 26 at 2 p.m. All games this weekend will be played on Day Field.

Wesleyan and Middlebury met once this season, on March 16 in Middletown, Conn. Tied 4-4 at halftime, the Panthers closed out the game on a 2-0 run to edge the Cardinals, 8-7. On the other side of the bracket, Tufts and Salisbury will meet for the first time this year.


AT A GLANCE: NO. 8 WESLEYAN (17-3)
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  • The Cardinals arguably have had the most difficult path to the Final Four. They defeated No. 9 Mary Washington (11-6), No. 2 Washington & Lee (13-7), and No. 1 Gettysburg (10-7).
  • Last weekend, Wesleyan knocked off the top two teams in the country on consecutive days. On Sunday, they upset the host school and two-time defending national champions Gettysburg behind stellar play from goalie Allegra Grant and midfielder Abby Manning. Grant saved 10 shots, including four on free position attempts, while Manning scored seven points on four goals and three assists.
  • The Cardinals are averaging 13 goals on 27.85 shots per game. They are shooting 48.5 percent on free position shots and are averaging 12.80 draw controls per contest. Defensively, they allow just 7.70 goals and are causing 11.15 turnovers per game.
  • Wesleyan is led in points by Manning (81), Abigail Horst (49), Sydney Prokupek (48), Caitlin Wood (45), Johanna Copeland (30), and Julia Gretsky (30). Manning leads the team in goals (67) and Prokupek leads the team in assists (26).
  • On the defensive side, two-time All-American Caroline Sgaglione leads the way with 35 caused turnovers followed by Breanna Cavanaugh with 30. Cavanaugh and Grant each have four 40 ground balls and Sgaglione has 39. Grant has been excellent in net all season, especially in the NCAA Tournament, and owns a 7.66 goals-against average (GAA) and 50.2 save percentage.
  • Wesleyan had four All-NESCAC selections (Grant, Horst, Manning, and Sgaglione) and seven IWLCA All-Region honorees (Cavanaugh, Grant, Gretsky, Horst, Manning, Sgaglione, and Wood).
  • The Cardinals are 5-2 all-time in three NCAA Tournament appearances, all in the last three years under fourth-year head coach Kim Williams. Williams has completely turned the program around in a very short period of time. Prior to her arrival, Wesleyan had eight-straight losing seasons and never had more than nine wins. They were 43-77 (.358) overall and 10-66 (.132) in the NESCAC during that stretch. Since Williams took over, the Cardinals have gone 45-25 (.643) and 23-17 (.575), while getting better each year. The team has qualified and advanced further each season in the NCAA Tournament the past three years, while surpassing program records in overall wins at the same time.

AT A GLANCE: NO. 3 MIDDLEBURY (20-1)
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  • Middlebury, last year's national runner-up, returns to the Final Four for the third time in the last four seasons. Their road to the championship featured wins over Johnson & Wales (22-3), No. 14 Bowdoin (18-9), and No. 5 Franklin & Marshall (16-4).
  • In their last outing, the Panthers came out strong in the first half at home and took a 10-2 halftime lead over Franklin & Marshall before pulling away for the 12-goal win. Middlebury held a commanding 35-11 advantage in shots, while Jane Earley led the team with four goals and two assists.
  • The Panthers lost their season-opener in overtime to Bates, 11-10, but have not lost since. They earned the automatic qualifier from the NESCAC by claiming the conference championship with a 10-9 victory over Tufts.
  • Middlebury is averaging 14.29 goals per game on 31.33 shots. They own a 75.5 shots on goal percentage and 41.7 clip on free position attempts. The Panthers' stifling defense allows just 6.61 goals per game and causes 11 turnovers per contest.
  • Their top-five point leaders are senior Emma McDonagh (71), junior Emily Barnard (62), freshman Jane Earley (61), freshman Lily Riseberg (30), and senior Jenna McNicholas (28). McDonagh leads the team in goals (54) and Barnard leads the team in assists (19).
  • Defensively, the team is led by a pair of sophomores as Addy Mitchell leads the team with 43 caused turnovers and Erin Nicholas has 24. Mitchell also leads the team in groundballs (64) and Nicholas has a team-high 69 draw controls. Goalie Julia Keith is 18-1 in net with a 6.28 GAA and 50.5 save percentage.
  • Middlebury had four All-NESCAC selections (Earley, McDonagh, Mitchell, and Nicholas), and eight IWLCA All-Region honorees (Barnard, Earley, Keith, McDonagh, Mitchell, Nicholas, Alex White, and Emma White). Fourth-year head coach Kate Livesay was also named the NESCAC Co-Coach of the Year.  
  • The Panthers are second all-time in Division III with six National Championships, with their last one coming in 2016. They are 63-18 in 25 all-time appearances and have reached the finals 10 times. Last year they lost to Gettysburg in the Championship Game, 11-9.

AT A GLANCE: NO. 4 TUFTS (19-2)
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  • The Jumbos advanced to the Final Four with wins over Plymouth State (18-0), No. 15 TCNJ (17-13), and No. 6 York (11-6).
  • In their last game against York (Pa.), Colette Smith led the team with three goals, while Emily Games had two and one assist, and Annie Sullivan scored twice. Goalie Audrey Evers made 11 saves in net.
  • Tufts is averaging 15.48 goals per game and allowing 7.87.
  • The team's top-five point leaders are Games (77), Smith (61), Dakota Adamec (48), Catherine Lawliss (40), and Courtney Grygiel and Annie Sullivan with 37 each. Games leads the team in goals (59) and is tied for the team lead with Grygiel in assists (18).
  • On the defensive side, Hedy Veith leads the way with 21 caused turnovers and 38 ground balls. Senior goalie Audrey Evers is 14-0 in net with an 8.16 GAA and 51.4 save percentage in 772:01 minutes, while freshman Molly Laliberty is 5-2 with a 7.39 GAA and 55.0 save percentage in 470:54 minutes.
  • Tufts is 8-4 all-time in five NCAA Tournament appearances.

AT A GLANCE: NO. 7 SALISBURY (19-3)
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  • Salisbury defeated Lebanon Valley (16-3), No. 19 Colorado College (18-8), and No. 12 Amherst (8-7) to advance to the Semifinals.
  • In the win over Amherst on Sunday, the Sea Gulls rallied from a 5-3 halftime deficit and Emma Skoglund scored the game-winning goal with just four seconds remaining. Taylor Poore led the team with three goals and one assist, and goalie Skye Graham made seven saves.
  • Salisbury is averaging 14.14 goals per game and allowing 7.56.
  • The top-five point leaders are Alexis Strobel (87), Lindsey Wagner (67), Gabby Mongno (54), Gianna Demato (50), and Skoglund (48). Skoglund leads the team in goals (48) and Strobel has a team-high 67 assists.
  • Poore leads the team in caused turnovers with 36 and Graham has a team-high 51 ground balls. She has also played the majority of minutes in net and owns an 8.28 GAA and 48.1 save percentage.
  • Salisbury is 48-16 in 20 NCAA Tournament appearances. They have won three National Championships and have advanced to the finals seven times.