Long Island wants its championship back.
Last season marked the first time since 2009 that a team other than Adelphi or LIU-Post won the Division II women’s lacrosse title, leaving both schools hungry to get back to the top.
Adelphi, which fell, 8-7, in the national championship game to Florida Southern, has reloaded and goes into its Feb. 18 opener against Grand Valley State (Mich.) ranked second in the national coaches poll. That game will be played in Lakeland, Florida.
Post, ranked fourth, opens at home on Feb. 20 against Pace.
“It was not the ending we wanted last year, but we had a great season and I think the loss in the national championship humbled us a great amount and lit a fire under all of us,” senior Jackie Jahelka said of Adelphi’s lone loss of 2016. An even more motivated Jahelka could be a frightening thought for opposing defenders, as the Garden City product led the nation in goals with 104 and was named the Division II Attacker of the Year.
The Panthers graduated eight starters, but Jahelka said she is embracing the challenge of leading a young team. “It’s exciting, between myself and the other seniors, to lead and take initiative and help mold the new girls into Adelphi players,” Jahelka said.
With Jahelka providing this leadership among the attackers, fellow first-team All-American Ryley Weber (Wantagh) will be tasked with doing the same at the other end of the field.
“There are a lot of new faces,” Weber said, “but all of them have been working so hard. There’s no dropoff.”
Midfielders Michele Scannell (Smithtown East) and Katie Beier (West Islip) are the team’s other two returning starters. Scannell earned second-team All-American honors last year and scored 35 goals; Beier added 31.
While Adelphi led Division II in scoring defense with 4.27 goals against per game, LIU Post was right behind at 4.33. Many of its key players are back this year, including goalie Olivia Kirk (Farmingdale), a first-team All-American who led the division with a .580 save percentage.
“I have goals set for myself, but more importantly we have our team goal, which is to win a national championship, ” Kirk said. While Kirk was statistically the toughest goalie to beat in the nation, she also said her job is made easier by the defenders in front of her.
Cara Douglas (West Islip) led those efforts and tied for 14th in the nation in caused turnovers per game, earning second-team All-American honors.
“The biggest thing is that we really trust each other,” Douglas said of the defense. “We’re always ready to slide and help and if we get beat, we’re always confident Liv will be there and have our backs.”
The Pioneers also return three of its top goal scorers. Connor Bird (Syosset) had 41 goals and 19 assists, Ryan McKinney scored 39 goals and Stefani Vagelatos (Comsewogue) added 37.
In Division III, St. Joseph’s is seeking a third consecutive Skyline Conference championship. The Golden Eagles will be led by all-conference defender Kelly Walsh (Commack), who had 31 caused turnovers for a team that finished seventh in the nation in the category. St. Joseph’s opens on Feb. 26 against Stevens in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Suffolk CCC opens its NJCAA play on March 11 at Howard.