Breaking Down Each Team in the Nike/USA Lacrosse D-III Women's Preseason Top 20

PHOTO COURTESY OF YORK COLLEGE

Jenna Cholowinski is among the top returning midfielders in the nation.


Salisbury capped a perfect season with the program’s fourth national championship, and they start 2022 as the team to beat, earning the No. 1 spot in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Division III Women’s Preseason Top 20.

Salisbury, which has made it to the NCAA semifinals each of the past three completed seasons, returns Lydia McNulty for a fifth year, as well as other top players such as attacker Erin Scannell, midfielder Lauren Valenti and defender Caroline McKenna.

Tufts, the No. 2 team, suffered its only loss of 2021 in the national championship game, falling by one goal to Salisbury. The Jumbos will be tough to beat this season with USA Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Player of the Year Molly Laliberty in goal and several other key players returning.

Continue below for the rest of the Top 20.

1. SALISBURY

The undefeated reigning NCAA champion returns Lydia McNulty for a fifth year, as well as other top players such as attacker Erin Scannell, midfielder Lauren Valenti and defender Caroline McKenna.

2. TUFTS

Tufts’ only loss was a one-goal defeat to Salisbury in the final. They’ll be tough to beat this season with USA Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Player of the Year Molly Laliberty in goal and several other key players returning.

3. FRANKLIN & MARSHALL

F&M played a limited schedule, toppled Gettysburg to open the NCAA tournament and lost to William Smith in the second round. Nine of 12 starters return, including attacker Ally Marino, midfielder Marissa McGarrey, defender Mary Pat McKenna and goalkeeper Emily Kitchin.

4. MIDDLEBURY

Middlebury did not play last year due to the pandemic but still have some players from their 2019 NCAA championship squad that went 3-0 in 2020 before the season shut down, including last year’s USA Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Player of the Year in Jane Earley.

5. ST. JOHN FISHER

St. John Fisher claimed its ninth straight Empire 8 championship and advanced to the NCAA semifinals — a narrow loss to Tufts. Attacker Sydney DeGirolamo and midfielder Brittany Haplin will play significant roles.

6. WILLIAM SMITH

William Smith gave up a last-minute goal and fell to St. John Fisher in an NCAA third-round game six days after upsetting then-No. 1 Franklin & Marshall. Junior attacker Maddie Montgomery, senior midfielder Payton McMahon and junior midfielder Molly Davis are experienced contributors.

7. ITHACA

Ithaca stunned Washington and Lee in the third round of the NCAA tournament but suffered a letdown in the quarterfinals in a blowout loss to Salisbury. Veterans in midfielder Megan Motkowski, attacker Alexa Ritchie and defender Rachel Rosenberg lead the Bombers.

8. WASHINGTON AND LEE

Nine starters return, including junior attacker Allie Schwab, and W&L added defender Eugenie Rovegno as a transfer from Bowdoin.

9. MESSIAH

Messiah beat York for their fifth conference title in the last six years and kept their perfect season going all the way into the NCAA quarterfinals. Junior attacker Rachel Delate and senior midfielder Hope Flack bring back valuable experience from that impressive run.

10. GETTYSBURG

A limited schedule and loss to F&M in the conference final meant Gettysburg missed NCAA tournament for the first time 19 years. Centennial Conference Rookie of the Year Caroline Sullivan and regional All-Americans Katie Fullowan and Shannon Twill are back in the fold.






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11. TCNJ

The Lions claimed their seventh straight NJAC tournament championship and 10th straight NJAC title last season before their run ended with a one-goal loss to Tufts in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. Senior attacker Jenny LaRocca and junior midfielder Jillian Westerby are among the team’s top returning players.

12. DENISON

The Big Red won the NCAC tournament on a buzzer-beater against Wooster, then climbed through the NCAA tournament to make it to the final four for the first time in program history. They return standout Casey McTague, who was named the conference midfielder of the year, and junior attacker Jane Bailey, who was an All-NCAC West selection as well.

13. CATHOLIC

Catholic beat Scranton to win the Landmark Conference title but saw its season come to an end in the second round of the NCAA tournament against Franklin & Marshall. The Cardinals lost a few usual starters but the entire midfield returns, including the top five goal scorers and 16 of 19 point scorers

14. SUNY CORTLAND

The Red Dragons won the SUNYAC championship but ended a 13-game winning streak in the third round of the NCAA tournament against Messiah. They return a solid core, led by senior attacker Hannah Lorenzen and midfielder Kiki Meager.

15. SUNY BROCKPORT

The Golden Eagles overcame a slow start to the 2021 season and went into the SUNYAC tournament final on a 10-game winning streak but lost to Cortland. Goalie Morgan Elmer returns as the anchor for Brockport’s defense. 

16. YORK

The Spartans ran out of steam in the MAC Commonwealth championship game to end their season, but they look to bounce back in 2022. Senior midfielder Jenna Cholowinski and senior Riley DiFiore are among the top players nationally at their position.

17. WESLEYAN

The Cardinals played in their first conference championship game after winning the NESCAC East with a 3-1 record, but the season ended with a lopsided loss to Tufts. This season should be more challenging with a full schedule, but they return some solid pieces, especially with attackers Laura Baine and Liv Lai.

18. COLBY

Colby got several young players experience in an extremely limited schedule last year and that should help in a more competitive 2022 campaign. Among those returning are junior attackers Annie Eddy and Gianna Bruno and junior midfielder Elizabeth Hennessey.

19. MONTCLAIR STATE

The Red Hawks fell in the NJAC championship game against TCNJ, ending their season. Senior midfielder Haley Doran and senior defender Katherine Yarusso are among the team’s top returning players.

20. CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT

The Captains experienced their share of ups and downs in 2021, which ended with a loss to eventual NCAA champion Salisbury in the Coast-to-Coast Athletic Conference tournament final. They had four top-25 wins playing a good mix of veterans and young players who now provide a solid core for 2022.

Also considered (alphabetical order): Amherst, Bowdoin, Mary Washington, Roanoke, St. Mary’s, SUNY Geneseo

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