Spartans Ready for NCAA First Round Contest Saturday

Spartans Ready for NCAA First Round Contest Saturday

CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton University women's lacrosse team will make the short trip to Middlebury, Vt., for its first round match in the 2018 NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse Tournament, as the Spartans will face Babson College Saturday, May 12, at Kohn Field starting at 1 p.m.

The Spartans are 11-6 overall, the team's 10th season with double-digit victories over the last 11 years, as they enter the national tournament for the seventh straight year. Castleton is on a seven-game winning streak and is 10-2 since March 22, including an 11-6 victory at Norwich as well as nine victories over North Atlantic Conference opponents that extended the team's winning streak over league foes in both regular season and conference play to 65 dating back to 2012.

Castleton is making its seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament in as many years and is looking for its second victory all-time in tournament play, previously defeating Morrisville State, 19-10, on May 9, 2015 in Cortland, N.Y. This is the Spartans' second trip to Middlebury for the NCAA Tournament, as they lost to the Panthers, 20-3, on May 8, 2013.

As a team, Castleton is ranked in the top 15 in three NCAA statistical categories, as the Spartans are 11th in ground balls per game (26.59), 13th in assists per game (7.88), and 14th in caused turnovers per game (14.41). Besides those three categories, the Spartans also lead the NAC in goals against average at 8.88.

Individually, senior Emily Cross has been the team's top point producer, currently sitting in the top 50 in four different statistical categories. The 2018 NAC Tournament MVP is 27th in assists per game (2.47), 30th in total assists (42), 38th in total points (93), and 43rd in points per game (5.47). Cross has tied the Castleton single-season record for assists and is five points away from tying the school single-season record for most points.

Sophomore Erin Shuttle is fourth in the NAC with 57 goals and 117 total shots, plus she has the sixth-highest single-season goal total in program history. In her first year with the team, Emma Best has made an immediate impact for the Spartans, entering the school record book with single-season top-10 totals in draw controls (78 – tied for fourth), ground balls (64 – fourth), and caused turnovers (32 – tied for 10th).

Defensively, Samantha Hebb has been the starting goalie for the past two seasons, entering the NCAA Tournament third in the NAC in both save percentage (.480) and goals against average (9.62) as well as fifth in the league in total saves (131). Hebb has reached double figures in saves seven times this season, including in both matches in the NAC Tournament as she earned All-Tournament honors with 10 saves against Husson and 14 saves against Colby-Sawyer.

Babson, 12-7 overall, received an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament after defeating Coast Guard (17-1) and Springfield (15-13) in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament. The Beavers have won five straight games and six of their last seven contests entering Saturday's matchup.

Babson is also making its seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament, including its second consecutive trip to the national tournament. The Beavers are 4-6 in their previous tournament games, winning first round games in 2008 (Trinity, 19-10), 2009 (Farmingdale State, 19-7), and 2010 (Williams, 8-6) before picking up a 17-8 victory over Johnson & Wales last year in Hartford, Conn.

As a team, the Beavers are scoring 13.79 goals and allowing 10.58 goals per game, plus they have earned 29.1 shots, 17.53 ground balls, 14.68 draw controls, and 7.68 caused turnovers per game. Babson has scored on 43.7 percent (59-of-135) of its free position attempts, has been successful on almost 84 percent of clearing attempts (246-of-293), and has posted a save percentage of .362 with 114 total saves.

Julia Harrigan is 11th in Division III in free position percentage, scoring on 70.8 percent (17-of-24) of her attempts as she has collected 38 goals and 94 draw controls. Lexi Lenaghan is 35th in the country with 94 points, 40th in points per game (5.53), 42nd in free position percentage at 64.7 percent (11-of-17), and 56th in goals with 62.

Maria Bravo leads the Beavers with 46 ground balls and is tied with Mairead Williams for the team lead in caused turnovers with 21 apiece. Cricket Fligor has started 13 games in net for Babson, posting a 9-4 record, a 10.30 goals against average and a .355 save percentage with 78 total saves. Olivia Phelan is 3-3 in six starts as goalie with an 11.32 goals against average and a .379 save percentage with 36 saves.

This will be the first meeting all-time between Castleton and Babson. As best as can be determined, Castleton is 5-4 against current NEWMAC schools (5-2 vs. Emerson, 0-2 vs. Springfield).

The winner of the Castleton-Babson game will face Middlebury College in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday, May 13, at 1 p.m. at Kohn Field. The Panthers are 16-2 overall and ranked fourth in this week's IWLCA Division III Coaches Poll after winning the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship with a 13-10 victory over Bowdoin.

The Castleton women's lacrosse team is completing its final season as a member of the North Atlantic Conference before moving to the Little East Conference along with 17 other Spartan programs starting in the 2018-19 academic year.