If you want to measure how far F&M’s women’s lacrosse team has come in the last couple years, consider this: Of the 174 teams in Division III women’s lacrosse, 172 finished behind the Diplomats in the final tally and only one finished ahead, yet the team’s mood is, well, disappointed.
That may have more to do with the outcome of the final contest than the season itself. F&M finished the 2008 campaign with a record of 19-2 and a 9-0 mark in the Centennial Conference (CC), bringing home the conference trophy in dominating fashion. The second loss was a painful 13-6 defeat at the hands of Hamilton College in the NCAA National Championship game.
The season was marked by a reversal of roles for Franklin & Marshall. The 2007 Diplomats were an afterthought in the minds of Division III women’s lacrosse experts. That is, at least, until they captured the national championship with a 21-0 record.
In 2008, there was no bigger blip on the radar screen of Division III women’s lax than the squad from Lancaster. With the big target of number one placed on their backs in every poll and the loss of Amanda Miceli ’09 to a knee injury during basketball season, the Diplomats set out to defend their crown by reeling off seven straight wins to start the season, including a 14-13 comeback victory over Hamilton.
Riding a 30-game winning streak, the No. 1 Diplomats traveled to Salisbury University for a rematch of the 2007 National Championship game and a battle between the nation’s two top-ranked teams. After 60 minutes, the Sea Gulls came away with a 9-7 victory in the regular season’s most-anticipated game.
The Diplomats bounced right back, winning the CC regular-season title and defeating fourth-ranked Gettysburg 14-6 for their second consecutive conference championship. In the process, they suffered the loss of another key starter, Ashley Bevington ’10. Making their 10th trip to the NCAA playoffs, the Diplomats took a 16-1 record and confidence into the Sweet Sixteen. That confidence and wins over No. 12 Babson College and No. 11 Amherst College helped the Diplomats punch their ticket to the national semifinals.
The momentum from the national quarterfinals carried over into the first semifinal game against 12-time national champion The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). F&M picked the perfect time to get its first-ever win in program history over the Lions, defeating TCNJ 14-12 to advance to the title game, where they lost to Hamilton in the teams’ second meeting of the season.
Personal milestones and a bevy of awards highlighted the outstanding season. Jen Pritchard ’09 reached 200 career points early in the season and followed with her 200th career goal in the final game. Shannon Summers ’09 scored her 100th career goal en route to her 200th career point, while Sarah Meisenberg ’09 netted her 100th career marker. Pritchard, Meisenberg, Summers and Bevington were named All-Region and three-time All-Americans, while Blake Hargest ’10 received All-Region honors.
F&M’s success under Anne Phillips ’80 has not gone unnoticed by other college programs. In June, Yale University hired Phillips as its women’s lacrosse head coach. Phillips compiled a 93-24 record during her six-year tenure.
The good news for the team is that only one player, Carli McLaughlin ‘08, graduated from the squad, and the team will welcome a top-notch class this fall. McLaughlin, who missed Commencement, was presented her degree by President John Fry following the championship game. The other 20 Diplomats are ready for redemption.