Monmouth women's lacrosse coach Sue Cowperthwait faced a monumental challenge as she prepared her players for today's date with No. 1 and six-time defending national champion Maryland in the Hawks' first appearance in the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse tournament.
"It's definitely keeping them off the Internet and keeping them from reading the newspapers," said Cowperthwait, with a laugh. "But seriously, we're very honored to be in the tournament. Maryland is a terrific program and we're definitely going to see the best lacrosse has to offer, but we're here for a reason."
The Hawks, from West Long Branch, N.J., are coming off the best season in their program's five-year history.
"We've come a long way in a short period of time," Cowperthwait said. "We were much more mentally prepared this year and focused on the team perspective."
Saturday, the Hawks dethroned three-time defending Northeast Conference champion UMBC to win the conference crown and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. To get any further, however, they would have to pull off the biggest upset in women's lacrosee college history.
The Terrapins (19-0) bring a 39-game winning streak into their 12th straight national tournament. They have won 16 straight NCAA tournament games. In the past 10 years, the Terps have been to the title game nine times and have won seven crowns.
"It would be intimidating for any program, let alone a first-time NCAA qualifier," said Cowperthwait, whose team has never played Maryland. "We're not the first team to be in this position, and we hope it's not our last."
The Hawks (12-7) have two opponents in common with the Terps this season. The Terps beat Ohio State, 19-2, while the Hawks lost, 14-7. Against UMBC, the Terps won, 23-2, while the Hawks won twice, 10-9 and 14-9.
Monmouth's top player is two-time Northeast Conference Player of the Year Heather Bryan, who leads the team with 68 points that includes 44 goals.
For the Terps, two-time National Player of the Year Jen Adams has 122 points, including 77 goals. Adams, a senior from Australia with 419 career points, needs two more in today's 4 p.m. game at Ludwig Field to become the all-time leading scorer in college women's lacrosse history.
Timing is everything
Loyola coach Diane Geppi-Aikens doesn't think her team has played a consistently strong game since upsetting Princeton in the third game of the season. She would like to see one this afternoon as the No. 8 Greyhounds play host to No. 10 William & Mary in an all-Colonial Athletic Association first-round NCAA tournament showdown at 4 p.m. at Curley Field.
"We're looking to finally peak and put everything together. That's what tournament time is all about," said Geppi-Aikens, whose team made last year's Final Four.
In their sixth straight NCAA tournament, the Greyhounds (13-4) play a team they beat, 14-7, during the regular season.
"Both teams are fast-break teams, so whoever can execute well on the fast break and stop the opposing fast break is going to win," Geppi-Aikens said.
Two players who will be key factors are the top scorers - Loyola's Stacey Morlang (55 goals, 22 assists) and William & Mary's Lindsay Lowman (30, 42), a Southern-AA graduate who holds all Tribe records for assists.