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Women’s lacrosse preview: Adelphi will try for fourth NCAA title in five years

Jacqueline Jahelka, #5, of Adelphi congratulates teammate Alison

Jacqueline Jahelka, #5, of Adelphi congratulates teammate Alison Johnson, #16, after she scored a goal in an NCAA Division ll women's lacrosse game against Merrimack on Saturday, April 8, 2017, at Motamed Field in Garden City. Credit: James Escher

National championship or bust.

That is the Adelphi women’s lacrosse battle cry this season after winning it all in 2017.

A second-half rally in last year’s Division II national title game against Florida Southern allowed Adelphi to reach the pinnacle for the third time in four years and for the eighth time in program history. The Panthers concluded 2017 on a nine-game winning streak and a 21-1 record.

Adelphi enters this season ranked No.1 in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association preseason poll.

“Our culture is pretty intense in terms of our preparation and how hard we work no matter what,” said sophomore Kole Pollock, who burst onto the scene last season with 49 goals, which was second on the team in the fast-paced attack.

“I really think the sky’s the limit with her,” coach Pat McCabe said. “She started to get a sense of how great she could be last year and we’ve only seen that multiply between the fall and the early spring.”

The Panthers also will lean on senior midfielder Michele Scannell, the U.S. Lacrosse Magazine’s Division II preseason player of the year and a two-time second-team All-American who scored 36 goals with 57 draw controls last season.

Sophomore Alison Johnson will be a central playmaker on attack after finishing second in points (95) and first in assists (55).

The potential for offensive improvement remains after Adelphi finishing 12th in the country in scoring at 15.18 goals per game. They’ll face a new challenge, however, as this season will introduce a 90-second shot clock to both Division II and III.

“I think this year we’re coming in with a lot more confidence and positivity, which will really help us toward the end goal of winning another national championship,” Pollock said.

The Panthers will debut at No. 2 Florida Southern in a title-game rematch on Saturday.

LIU Post also enters the season with national title expectations, with a No. 5 preseason ranking.

Following a 16-3 effort last season, which ended in a loss to NYIT in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Post will look to take the next step.

Alyssa Mallery, a sophomore midfielder, is the Panthers’ top-returning scorer after recording 31 goals her freshman year.

But for Post, goalkeeping will play a crucial role in making a postseason run after leading the nation in save percentage (.542) last year. Senior Olivia Kirk will look to follow up on a 138-save season in which she was named Division II goalie of the year by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association.

The Pioneers will host Southern New Hampshire on Feb. 24.

Another Division II squad projected to make considerable noise in 2018 is No. 14 NYIT.

The Bears will rely on senior Alyssa Milano, who scored a team-high 58 goals on attack last year. Redshirt senior Karie Znaiecki also will play a vital role after leading the club in points (102) and assists (58).

NYIT comes off a 15-4 season that ended with a loss to Le Moyne in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Bears will open against Georgian Court on Feb. 28.

In Division III, unranked Farmingdale State could be a force after finishing 18-2 and making a second-round NCAA Tournament appearance in 2017.

Suffolk CCC will visit Anne Arundel in its season-opener on March 10. Nassau CC will welcome Mohawk Valley on March 9.

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