Stringing Sticks: Siena women’s lacrosse doesn’t mind having a break

Siena women's lacrosse head coach Abigail Rehfuss instructs her team on Saturday, February 22, 2020.
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Siena women's lacrosse head coach Abigail Rehfuss instructs her team on Saturday, February 22, 2020.

A two-week break from competition doesn’t scare Abigail Rehfuss.

The Siena women’s lacrosse coach knows her team was rolling by the end of its regular season, having won its last four games to secure the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament. And that seed combined with the fact Siena ended its season a bit before other league teams gives the Saints 15 days between its last game — a 14-9 win over Niagara on April 21 — and the tournament semifinal on May 6 at noon.

But that game will be on Siena’s own Hickey Field, as Siena is hosting the tournament semifinals and final. Monmouth, the No. 1 seed, forfeited the chance to host the tournament when the school announced earlier this year that it was leaving the MAAC to go to the Colonial Athletic Association.

The final is scheduled for 1 p.m. on May 8. Siena has hosted three quarterfinal games in 2015, 2019 and 2021, and one semifinal in 2021, but never a championship since it has never been the No. 1 seed.

Siena (6-2 league, 10-7 overall) was 4-0 versus conference opponents at home this season and 6-2 overall at home. It earned a share of the MAAC title, its first since sharing it with Fairfield in 2005.

“For me, would I rather have a play-in game or advance straight to the semifinals? And it’s advance straight to the semifinals every time,” Rehfuss said.

The time off obviously gives Siena some time to fine-tune things that are working well, improve things that weren’t and recuperate from an aggressive schedule.

“We’re rolling, and we can still be rolling on May 6 from where we were two weeks ago,” Rehfuss said.

The team is led in scoring by record-breakers Nicole McNeely and Mary Soures, with 83 and 64 points, respectively, but right behind them is a pair of younger players in freshman Grace Dobrzynski and redshirt freshman Jordan Bentley, from Queensbury, with 53 and 31 points. Bentley was named MAAC Rookie of the Week this week for scoring a career-high four goals in the win over Niagara.

Rehfuss said Bentley, who transferred from Richmond after red-shirting last year, started as a midfielder but has transitioned to attack.

“Her trajectory has been impressive, as far as her IQ, skill set and confidence,” Rehfuss said. “I think in high school, you can be the best athlete on the field and rule the day with that, but here you need a more rounded game and general awareness. There’s usually a learning curve with freshmen, but Jordan has been able to come in and understand what we need.”

Defensively, the Saints have had some success playing two goalies, Ally Mervine and Sabrina Krasner. Mervine usually starts, but throughout the conference games, Krasner played most of the second halves.

“They both bring different things to the table,” Rehfuss said. “Now, if Merv is solid in the first half, we’ll stick with her — we’re going with the hot hand. But sometimes she’s been good and we’ll stick Sabrina in the second half for a different look, and they’ve been a good yin and yang.”

Rehfuss said the players are thrilled that they can sleep in their own beds and eat their usual meals throughout the course of the MAAC Tournament. Meanwhile, the bye into the semifinals gives them a chance to reflect on what worked and what didn’t in advancing to the last two tournament finals, but losing both to Fairfield.

“The key to our success is to be aggressive, and the only way to do that is to be loose and have fun on our field that we play on every day,” Rehfuss said.

POSITIONING

With it being the final week of the regular season for both men and women in most leagues, most local teams will have a say in where they end up for conference tournaments.

The exception to that is the UAlbany women’s team, which has already clinched the No. 1 seed for the America East Tournament on May 5 and 7. It hosts Stony Brook — ranked sixth and seventh in the national polls — on Saturday, but the Seawolves are ineligible for the tournament since the school is leaving the conference after this spring, so even if the Great Danes lose, it won’t affect their spot in the conference tournament.

The UAlbany men, who host No. 11/13 Pennsylvania on Saturday, have finished their conference games and have clinched a spot in the tournament. Where they are seeded depends on Friday’s UMBC/NJIT game. If UMBC wins, the Great Danes will be seeded fourth and will play top-seeded and tournament host Vermont in a semifinal May 5. If NJIT wins, and it would be its first of the season, UAlbany is the third seed and will play Binghamton.

The Siena men’s team hosts Quinnipiac on Saturday. If the Saints win, they will clinch the No. 4 seed and will travel for a semifinal on May 5.

The Union men, ranked fourth in Division III, could be seeded anywhere first to third in the upcoming Liberty League tournament, though it’s more likely in the top two, as it, RIT and St. Lawrence all have 5-1 league records. Union hosts Vassar (2-4 league) on Saturday, while St. Lawrence hosts RIT. The best scenario for the Dutchmen has them beating Vassar, and St. Lawrence beating RIT, giving them the No. 1 seed by virtue of their win over St. Lawrence. If RIT and Union both win, RIT has the head-to-head victory and would get the No. 1 seed. 

The Liberty League semifinals are May 4 at the highest seeds. The highest remaining seed after those hosts the final on May 7.

Finally, if the Union women beat Rochester on Saturday, it would assure a spot in the Liberty League Tournament for the second consecutive year.

HONORS

UAlbany men’s lacrosse freshman Amos Whitcomb was named America East Rookie of the Week, his third such honor this season. Last week Whitcomb scored six goals, with four coming at New Jersey Institute of Technology and two at then-No. 10-ranked Yale.

Union women’s player Grace Heiting, a senior, recorded a game-high seven points, including the 100th point of her career in the Dutchwomen’s 20-4 win over Bard on Wednesday. Heiting is just the 22nd player in program history to reach 100 points.

Union senior men’s player Peter Burnes earned the Liberty League Men’s Lacrosse Performer of the Week award. Burnes had 12 goals and two assists in two victories. He had six goals and two assists against Skidmore, and six more goals against Ithaca. He enters Saturday’s game 10th on the school single-season goals list (41) and 15th on the single-season points list (57).

Categories: College Sports, Siena College, Sports, UAlbany, Union College

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