Work not finished for No. 1 Salisbury

The Baltimore Sun

After upsetting defending national champion and No. 1 Franklin & Marshall on Saturday, Salisbury was rewarded with the No. 1 ranking in Division III women's lacrosse.

The Sea Gulls (14-0) have been in and out of the top spot a few times in recent years, but this is their first No. 1 ranking since April 2006.

Saturday's 9-7 win at Sea Gull Stadium avenged last year's 11-8 loss in the national championship game and ended a 28-game winning streak for the Diplomats (7-1), from Lancaster, Pa.

While happy with the victory, the Sea Gulls and coach Jim Nestor won't spend a whole lot of time celebrating their ascent to the top. It's too early for that.

"It's obviously not a national championship," Sea Gulls defender Jessica Liston (Old Mill) said, "but it gives us lot of confidence just to know we can hang in there for that national run. Really, revenge is sweet, but there's a lot more work to do."

For Nestor, who has guided the Sea Gulls to the final four twice in three years, the victory was most important because it kept Salisbury unbeaten in the South region. That could help the Sea Gulls earn home-field advantage during the early rounds of the national tournament.

"That's the biggest thing right now, because Washington & Lee is doing so well, beating Middlebury," Nestor said. "Between the two of us, one is going to be traveling."

Tigers on the rise

Last year was an unusual one for Princeton. A 10-7 record gave the team its most losses since 1997. But the Tigers lost five of those games by one or two goals.

This year, they're winning the close ones.

Ranked No. 7 in the preseason, the Tigers vaulted to No. 2 last week after upsetting then-No. 2 Virginia, 8-7, on March 22. They were solidly in that position at 7-0 heading into last night's game against Columbia.

Coach Chris Sailer said experience has been the difference.

"We've got 10 upperclassmen in our starting lineup," she said. "It's been a long time since we had that percentage of upperclassmen. We're just beginning to take advantage of what we've been building the past couple years."

Sailer said this group, which includes two Baltimoreans - All-America defender Norris Novak (Bryn Mawr) and midfielder Kristin Schwab (Friends) - has great chemistry and good balance up and down the field.

That should bode well for the Tigers, who aren't used to going out of the NCAA tournament in the first round as they did last year, falling to Virginia, 19-10. Princeton is one of the all-time top programs with three national titles, including 2002 and 2003 and 10 straight trips to the tournament.

Up for the challenge

Atlantic Coast Conference foes Maryland and North Carolina join forces this weekend for the annual ACC/ALC Challenge in Chapel Hill, but the camaraderie won't last long. On April 12, the No. 3 Terrapins head back to Chapel Hill to play the No. 10 Tar Heels.

This year's challenge, played tomorrow and Sunday, pits the Terrapins and the Tar Heels against American Lacrosse Conference duo of Penn State and Ohio State.

While not always the case, this year's Challenge should weigh heavily in the ACC's favor.

The Terps (9-1) have won eight straight games since falling to Duke on March 1. The Tar Heels (8-3) beat Duke but are looking to rebound from Saturday's 5-4, double-overtime loss to Boston College. Neither Penn State (3-6) nor Ohio State (7-3) has beaten a ranked team.

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