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Sunday, May 6, 2007

W-LACROSSE DRAWS MONTCLAIR IN NCAA OPENER

Warriors and Red Hawks to meet Wednesday for first time since 1998

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. –  The Warriors will meet Montclair State University in the opening round of the 2007 NCAA Division III women’s lacrosse tournament Wednesday at Montclair, NJ at 4 p.m.

Unranked Eastern (13-5) was among 15 automatic qualifiers to the 24-team field, while 15th-ranked Montclair State (13-3) was granted an at-large berth after winning the Skyline Conference playoffs for the second straight year. The Warriors are making their second NCAA tournament appearance (in three years). The bid is the first for Montclair, which won last year’s ECAC Upstate tournament.

Wednesday’s first-round winner advances to regional play Saturday and Sunday at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, PA. Gettysburg and Hamilton College drew first-round byes and will be joined in the regional by either Eastern or Montclair and either Trinity College (CT) or Endicott College.

The national semifinals and final are scheduled for May 19-20 at William Smith College.

Eastern has won five of its last six games and 12 of its last 14 since losing three of its first four games – three of them currently ranked nationally. The Red Hawks have captured eight of their last nine, the only loss in that stretch coming at the hands of No. 5 nationally-ranked and two-time defending national champion College of New Jersey by a score of 12-10. Montclair is rated third in the Metro Region. Eastern is unranked in New England.

Eastern features two players this year with 50 points: junior Lily Anderson (Portland, ME) and senior Kara Bradley (North Haven, CT). Anderson has a team-leading 46 goals and 54 points, Bradley 30 goals and 51 points. Senior Meghan Feraco (Norwich, CT) leads the squad with 23 assists, while freshman Taylor MacDonald (Oak Bluffs, MA) tops the team in ground balls (66), draw controls (46) and is second in caused turnovers (24). A 2005 conference Defensive Player-of-the-Year and Inside Lacrosse second-team All-America, Bradley leads the Warriors with 39 caused turnovers.

Senior Erin Calkins (Stony Brook, NY), last year’s ECAC New England Goalie-of-the-Year, has played every minute in net and has an 8.90 goals-against average and .573 save percentage. Calkins made 12 saves against Plymouth State University Saturday in the Warriors’ 10-9 Little East Conference championship game victory, and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Montclair is ranked tenth nationally in scoring and seventh in caused turnovers. Seniors Brianna Gillin and Shauna Brockelbank have both scored 40 goals for the Red Hawks, with senior Ann Daily adding 36 and junior Jennnifer Tanis scoring 32. Gillin’s 43 assists rank fifth nationally. Senior Kirstin Kuhmann has virtually every minute in net for the Red Hawks with a 7.98 GAA and .516 save percentage. Gillin has been named MVP of the Skyline Conference tournament each of the last two years while Brocklebank was last year’s conference Player-of-the-Year and an ECAC Metro all-star. Kuhmann was selected MVP of last year’s ECAC Upstate tournament.

All three of Montclair’s losses this year have been against teams which appeared in the national Top 20 at least once this season.

Both  Eastern and Montclair won all six of their conference games this year and two more in their conference playoffs, with Montclair having posted consecutive undefeated conference slates. This year, only Manhattanville College is a common opponent. The Red Hawks downed the Valiants twice by a total of 22 goals while Eastern claimed a ten-goal win in mid-April.

Eastern is under the direction of first-year head coach Christine Jeffrey. Eastern’s win total this year equals its third-highest in the program’s 12-year history. Montclair has won at least 11 matches each of the last four years following consecutive sub-.500 seasons.

Eastern and Montclair will be meeting for the second time. Previously, Eastern won by a score of 23-12 in its third intercollegiate season in 1998. Montclair began its program in 1980 but disbanded in the mid-1980s for 11 years before returning to the intercollegiate level in 1997.

In its first NCAA tournament appearance in 2005, Eastern upset host Springfield College, 13-8, before losing to undefeated No.-1 ranked Salisbury University, 19-5.

Twenty-five percent of the NCAA field is comprised of teams from New England. Eastern, Endicott College, Babson College, Middlebury College and Western New England College all qualified automatically, while Trinity was an at-large selection. Eastern defeated Western New England, 18-9, in late March and lost to Trinity, 15-6, in its second match of the year and to Babson, 16-8, two weeks ago.