THURSDAY, MARCH 31, 2011
Women’s lacrosse looks to stay unbeaten in NLC play when it hosts Liberty on Friday
After winning its first two games against National Lacrosse Conference opponents, the JU women’s lacrosse team will look to remain unbeaten in league play when it hosts Liberty on Friday in a 4 p.m. matchup at D.B. Milne Field.

JU (7-4, 2-0) will try and extend its three-game winning streak against a Liberty (4-4, 2-0) squad that has won three of its last four. There is also a historical connection as both schools launched lacrosse in 2010 with the Dolphins winning both meetings against the Flames in the inaugural campaign, including a 24-8 victory in the quarterfinals of the NLC Tournament.

Liberty, JU and Longwood are the three remaining teams undefeated against NLC competition. One day after taking on the Flames, the Dolphins will face Longwood in a noon start on Sunday at D.B. Milne Field. Those contests will end JU’s stretch of five straight home games.

“We’re happy about starting conference play with wins over quality teams such as High Point and Davidson,” JU head coach Mindy McCord said. “The key is to keep up our intensity against Liberty and Longwood and end our homestand with momentum.”

JU has applied strong pressure this season, causing 93 turnovers. The Dolphins are plus-18 in caused-turnovers this season.

McCord’s team has capitalized on those extra possessions, averaging 13.27 goals per game. Leading the group is freshman attacker Morgan Derner, who has tallied 29 goals and 35 points through her first 11 collegiate games. Derner needs one more goal to join Cassie Campasano as the only players in team history to crack the 30-goal mark.

Fellow freshman Ali Hoffman also has found success playing near the cage. The attacker brings an eight-game goal scoring streak into the Liberty contest. Hoffman and Derner have also been complemented on the front-line by junior Sarah Michel, who scored three goals and added an assist to lift the Dolphins past Davidson in the previous game.

Ellyn Spangenberg continues to provide a scoring punch from the midfield, netting five multi-goal games. The sophomore tied a career high with her second all-time four-goal game in a win over High Point and is second on the team with 14 goals overall.

JU’s firepower could be tested against Liberty. The Flames have been buoyed by goalie Kristen Masullo, who has registered 103 saves to keep her team at .500 despite Liberty being out-scored by an aggregate score of 113-88. Masullo has compiled a .526 save percentage.

The Dolphins defense will look to stymie Liberty’s top duo of Nina Dunay and Karis Walborn. Both have cracked the 20-goal plateau, tying for the team lead with 21 apiece. But the tandem has accounted for almost half of Liberty’s total goal production, leaving JU to try and best the Flames with its depth.

Sophomore goalie Karli Tobin has also been improving during the season’s progression. Tobin has 77 saves and a 10.88 goals-against average in playing all but 30:46 of her team’s 11 games. Her efforts in net have helped JU out-score opponents, 76-61, in the second half this season.

Four JU players already have recorded three-or-more multi-goal games, led by Derner’s eight. Abigail Warnken has scored multiple goals four times and Kaitlin Stewart has accomplished the feat on three occasions.

JU will also look to sustain its streak of closing strongly. The Dolphins are 7-0 when leading at halftime and 6-1 when scoring first.

Fans who cannot make it out to Friday’s game can watch online at ASun.TV.

- By Brian Bohl .