McDaniel advanced to the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in program history. This year, they've taken that a step further.
Make that two steps.
The No. 15-ranked Green Terror opened the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament Saturday with a 4-1 home victory over Farmingdale State — a program-first NCAA tournament win. On Sunday, the Terror defeated Connecticut College 3-1 and advanced to the Round of 16.
McDaniel opens third-round play against host Brandeis in Waltham, Mass., on Saturday at 11 a.m.
"We're excited and we feel really grateful to be able to have this experience," fifth-year head coach Sandy Lagana said. "I feel like all the hard work we put in the spring and summer up to this point is paying off and I'm so excited and proud of this team."
No. 1 William Smith and No. 13 Amherst will face each other in the other third-round contest at 1:30 p.m. The winners will meet in the quarterfinal game on Sunday with a national semifinal bid on the line.
The Green Terror (18-2-1) closed out the regular season with two straight wins — one of which was a 3-2 victory over Johns Hopkins for the first win over the Blue Jays in 20 years. The Jays got the better of McDaniel in the Centennial Conference championship in Westminster, but the Green Terror earned one of 20 Pool C bids into the NCAA tourney.
The talent is there, and it always has been, Lagana said. Credit the team's offseason training.
"I think we were certainly talented last year and having that experience from last year of going to the Centennial semifinals and NCAA tournament has certainly been a big factor for our success," Lagana said. "The girls have worked so hard in the offseason to increase their abilities as players and we've brought in a really great freshman class that's been able to contribute so they've earned every bit of it.
"The offseason workouts are all about them, the coaches have nothing to do with that so they've really put hours in to become an even more talented group."
The Green Terror traveled to Pittsburgh last year for their NCAA tournament matchup against Oneonta and lost 3-1.
Lagana, a South Carroll graduate, who is 63-27-10 at the helm, said the lack of a postseason berth in previous years wasn't a matter of right and wrong.
"When I came into the program, it was a rebuilding program," Lagana said. "I think it's about the players that are here and the hard work they put in. They're putting more and more work in every year and recognizing that we have what it takes to play at this level. It takes time. It's not like we were doing something wrong before and now we're doing it right.
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"It takes time to rebuild a program and they've actually shortened the amount of time it took to build because of the work they put in."
Junior forward Katie Kirschennman leads the team with 11 goals and three assists for 25 points. Senior forward Nicole Hill's 11 assists are good for a team high, and she also has six goals. Senior midfielder Christina Wroblewski and sophomore forward Kirsten Gibson each have six goals, as well as a combined six assists.
The team took the lengthy bus trip to Massachusetts on Thursday and is anticipating the NCAA tournament experience.
"We've worked really hard for months now to be able to have this opportunity," sophomore defender Marissa Funke said. "All the hard work is really paying off and it's making it all worth it because we have nothing to lose."