May 15, 2001
AMHERST, Massachusetts - With a 13-6 victory over 10th-ranked Ithaca College in Sunday's NCAA Division III national quarterfinal game, the Amherst College women's lacrosse team (16-2) earned its second-ever trip to the NCAA Final Four, becoming the eighth team in school history to reach the national semifinals. If the Jeffs have a strong sense of deja vu heading into the weekend, it's more than understandable, for their opponent in Saturday's second national semifinal at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University is the defending NCAA champions of the College of New Jersey (TCNJ). The Jeffs, in their only previous trip to the Final Four, defeated the same Lions squad in the 1999 national semifinals, also played at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field, before falling to Middlebury College in a 10-9 championship game thriller.
Indeed, since falling to Middlebury in the 1997 NCAA title game, the College of New Jersey, who owns 10 of the 15 national titles since the inception of the NCAA Division III women's lacrosse tournament in the mid-1980s, has posted an incredible record of 58-2, claiming the national championship in 1998 and last year. Their only two losses during that stretch, however, have come at the hands of Amherst, including the Jeffs' come-from-behind 8-7 victory in the two teams' earlier meeting this year, a March 22 game at TCNJ.
Since the loss to Amherst, the Lions (12-1) have been unstoppable, cruising to 11 consecutive wins through Sunday, when they demolished Hamilton College, 17-3, in another of the four NCAA national quarterfinals. Leading the Lion attack is sophomore Liz O'Connor (Ridgewood, NJ), who posted 13 goals and two assists in TCNJ's two NCAA tournament games over the weekend, bringing her to 53 goals and 20 assists on the season. Sophomore Tara Prindible (Cinnaminson, NJ), who scored three goals and added two assists in Sunday's win over Hamilton, has 33 tallies and nine helpers on the year, and junior Janae Durkin (Turnersville, NJ) has 25 goals and 13 assists on the season for the Lions.
In goal, senior Tiffany Trockenbrod (Brigantine, NJ), in her first season as a netminder, has been among the nation's best, posting a 4.78 goals-against-average and stopping 64.3 percent of the shots she has faced.
Leading the offense for Amherst is senior All-American co-captain Kristin Osborn (Morristown, NJ), who now holds just about every scoring record that the College has. Osborn, who broke her own single-season school goal (51) and point (80) records with eight goals and five assists in the Jeffs' two NCAA Tournament games last weekend, now has 58 goals and 24 assists on the season, and is the Jeffs' all-time leading scorer, with 178 goals and 79 assists for her career.
Osborn has not been the Jeffs' lone weapon offensively, however, as the second-ranked squad boasts six different players with 20 or more goals. Sophomore Abby Ouimet (Hatfield, MA), who has a team-high 32 assists in addition to her 36 goals, has been one of Amherst's most pleasant surprises of the 2001 season, while senior Sarah Scheessele (Pittsburgh, PA), like Osborn a two-time First-Team All-American, has 42 goals and 10 assists through Amherst's quarterfinal win over Ithaca.
Defensively, senior co-captain Alison Kitay (Washington, DC) and juniors Cara Coscarelli (W. Hartford, CT) and Carrie Foster (Warsaw, OH) have been stellar in front of the Amherst net, where sophomore Brooke Diamond (Longmeadow, MA) and senior Jess Thaxton (Wayland, MA) have split time. Down the stretch, Diamond has seen a bulk of the minutes, and she has not disappointed, with a goals-against-average of 6.05 entering the weekend.
Saturday's national semifinal will be the fourth meeting all-time between the two programs, who will also be meeting for the third time in NCAA Tournament play. Along with Amherst's 8-7 victory earlier this season and their 11-8 win in the 1999 Final Four, TCNJ, then known as Trenton State College, knocked the Jeffs out of their first NCAA Tournament in 1996 with a 20-9 victory in the national quarterfinals.
Middlebury (15-0), the team responsible for both of Amherst's losses in 2001, received the number-one seed to the 2001 NCAA Tournament, and defeated eighth-seeded SUNY-Cortland, 17-6, in Sunday's national quarterfinals. In Saturday's first semifinal, the Panthers will meet fifth-seeded Mary Washington College (15-4), who avenged two losses earlier in the season with a 15-12 victory over fourth-seeded Salisbury State University on Sunday. Middlebury is making its eighth-consecutive appearance in the Final Four, while Mary Washington is appearing in the national semifinals for the first time in school history.
The Middlebury/Mary Washington game is set for an 11:30 a.m. start on Saturday at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field, while the Amherst/TCNJ pairing is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. or 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first semifinal, whichever comes later. The winners will meet in Sunday's NCAA title game, a 12:00 p.m. start, with the Division I NCAA championship following at 3:10 p.m. General admission tickets for each game will be sold at the gate for $10, and tickets students, children under 12, or senior citizens will be $8.
NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse National Semifinals and Finals
Saturday, May 19 and Sunday May 20, 2001, at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
Saturday, May 19
*11:30 a.m. -- #5 Mary Washington College (15-4) vs. #1 Middlebury College (15-0)
*2:00 p.m. -- #3 The College of New Jersey (12-1) vs. #2 Amherst College (16-2)
Sunday, May 20
*12:00 p.m. - Semifinal winners.