PROVIDENCE, RI – Fresh off its third-straight GNAC Championship, the Johnson & Wales University women's lacrosse team opens the 2019 NCAA Championship on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Wildcats face Morrisville State University at Middlebury College.
The winner of Saturday's contest at Kohn Field will take on top-ranked Middlebury at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
This will be the first meeting between the Wildcats and Mustangs. Johnson & Wales has won its last nine games and comes into the contest with a 16-4 record. It's been more than a month since JWU lost a match – an 11-10 defeat at MIT on April 3. Morrisville State (14-5 overall) has won 13 of its last 14 contests and defeated SUNY Poly, 14-12, in the finals of the North Eastern Athletic Conference tournament.
First One to 20 Wins
There should be plenty of offense Saturday as this first round contest features a pair of high-scoring teams. Johnson & Wales comes into the game averaging 17.90 goals per game, which ranks fourth in the country. Senior attacker Allison Pazienski rates 14th in the NCAA at 4.85 goals per game.
Morrisville State knows how to put the ball in the back of the net as well, averaging 16.21 goals per game. The Mustangs are led by Courtney Cavellier, who averages 3.4 gpg.
Wildcats Tops Regis For Third GNAC Title
Johnson & Wales made sure there was little doubt that the GNAC championship was going to stay in Providence. The Wildcats used a late 4-0 run in the first half to go into the locker room up 10-2 on their way to a 14-5 victory over Regis College.
Including the conference tournament, the win over the Pride was JWU's 39-straight versus GNAC school. Johnson & Wales will go into the 2020 season with a 38-game regular season GNAC winning streak, the sixth-longest in NCAA Division III history. The Wildcats haven't lost a regular season game since a 17-8 defeat to Saint Joseph's (Me.) on March 26, 2016.
JWU Cleans Up on All-GNAC Teams
Just as it did during the season, the Johnson & Wales dominated the postseason awards. The Wildcats placed seven players on the GNAC All-Conference teams and senior Allison Pazienski was named Attacker of the Year.
Attackers Pazienski and Maria Patane, midfielder Marley Medina and defender Deja Hursey were named First-Team All-GNAC. Making it onto the Second-Team All-GNAC was attacker Dani Lydecker and defender Hadley Borkowski. Madeline Bishara rounded out the JWU votes by making the Third-Team All-GNAC.
Wildcats Looking for First NCAA Triumph
While this is Johnson & Wales' third trip to the Big Dance, the Wildcats are still missing their first postseason victory. The 2017 edition lost, 17-8, to Babson at Trinity College. Last year the Wildcats traveled to Rowan where they were defeated by Catholic, 23-10.
Pazienski Continues to Set Records
With her postseason run, senior attacker Allison Pazienski has put her name atop a JWU record. After 13 tallies in the GNAC tournament, she has 234 goals for her career, surpassing the old record of 227 by Lydia Knapp (2014-17). The Valley Cottage, NY, native is second all-time with 287 points. Pazienksi ranks third in GNAC history for goals and seventh in points.
On the single season charts, Pazienski has shattered both the JWU and GNAC record for goals. Last year she set the JWU mark at 70, but has long surpassed that with 97 scores – ranking her 17th on the NCAA D3 single-season charts. She's also blown by the GNAC record of 88 goals set by Lasell's Britney Wuorio in 2012. Pazienski has taken down the JWU single-season points mark with 118.
Wildcats Spreading the Wealth
Opponents know if they want to have a chance to beat the Wildcats, they need to do more than stop just Allison Pazienski. Six different Wildcats have scored 25 or more goals.
Sophomore Dani Lydecker has also surpassed the previous JWU single-season mark with 103 points on 60 goals and 43 assists. The GNAC leader in assists, she needs four more to tie Raquel Pederzani's record set last season.
Last year Maria Patane set the Wildcats' record with 96 points and she too has gone past that mark. She's got 99 points on the year, including 42 assists which ranks second behind Lydecker. Sophomore Marley Medina is fourth on the team with 77 points, including 47 goals.
Defense Doing Its Job
While the offense may get most of the headlines, the JWU defense has been pretty strong this season. Johnson & Wales is limiting teams to 8.62 goals per game. Sophomore goalie Cassidy O'Hara ranks second in the GNAC with an 8.60 goals against average. Midfielder Marley Medina is second in the GNAC at 39 caused turnovers and fourth with 55 ground balls.
Wildcats and Mustangs Have Met Before…On the Ice
While this is the first time the two schools will meet on the lacrosse field, Johnson & Wales and Morrisville State have been on opposite sides before. The two schools were members of the Colonial Hockey Conference for women's ice hockey until this year when JWU joined the New England Hockey Conference.