Union women host Eastern in opening round

Union College, which earned an at-large bid, hosts Eastern University today in the first round of th
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Accuracy paid off for the Union College women’s lacrosse team.

Converting nearly 50 percent of their shots on goal, the 13-3 Dutchwomen earned their fifth NCAA Division III championship bid the hard way, with an at-large berth. Despite not winning the Liberty League tournament championship, which carries an automatic bid to the NCAAs, the Dutchwomen still were granted a first-round home game. They will host Eastern

University (Pa.) today on Frank Bailey Field at 4 p.m.

Tickets, which go on sale at

3 p.m. at Bailey Field, are priced at $5 for adults, $2 for students with ID and $1 for children 12 and younger. The game will be carried live on the Web on TEAMLINE and on the radio on WRUC-FM 89.7.

The game is a rematch of the 2006 NCAA first-round game, in which Union defeated Eastern, 16-7.

Union head coach Jessica Critchlow wasn’t surprised her team received an at-large bid and a first-round home game.

“You never know what’s going to happen, but we put together a sound regional schedule. We won the games we needed to win in

order to get an at-large bid,” she said. “I felt like we deserved it, and we earned it.

“We did very well against New York and New England teams. Two of the games we lost were to top-ranked teams. Hamilton was No. 4 when we lost to them, and Middlebury was ranked fifth or sixth when we lost to them.”

Union was 6-0 at home this year, and that fact has Critchlow smiling.

“We were undefeated at home, and that’s because we have a great atmosphere here. So many people support us. We’re excited to be playing at home, and hopefully, that will help us get a win in this game.”

Today’s winner advances to the regionals against SUNY-Cortland Saturday at the College of New Jersey.

Union, which previously competed in the NCAA playoffs in 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2006, has won five of its last six games. The Dutchwomen fell to Hamilton over the weekend in the Liberty League tournament championship game.

“One thing about this team is its desire to improve,” said Critchlow. “We are peaking at this point. I think we’re playing our best

lacrosse. Obviously, there is always going to be nerves in a big game like this, but this team knows it

has one of the best offenses around.

“We’ve got some really great sharpshooters, but one of the things that impressed me the most is that our defense has really come together. We held William Smith scoreless for a half in the Liberty League semifinals. That’s pretty impressive in the sport of lacrosse.”

Senior midfielder Keri Messa, from Saratoga Springs, is the scoring leader for the Dutchwomen with 70 points on 32 goals and a school-record 38 assists. Her career total of 151 points ranks eighth on the school’s all-time list. Joining Messa on the Liberty League first-team all-star unit is Caitlin Cuozzo, who has 20 goals and 33 points.

Three freshmen have also played a huge role in the Dutchwomen’s success. Attack Kristin Joyce has 47 goals and 50 points, midfielder Chelsea Charette has 33 goals and 46 points and goalkeeper Cat Ruggiero has posted a 7.11 goals-against average.

The Eastern Eagles (14-4) won the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference championship for the third straight year. Freshman midfielder/attack Grace Griffin paces the Eagles with 50 goals and 73 points, while junior attack Katie Choquette has 33 goals and 55 points. Junior goalkeeper Kimberly Campbell has a 7.68 goals-against average.

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