Middlebury and Mary O'Connell (above) sit atop the Division III rankings after beating Trinity to win the NCAA title last season.

NCAA Preview: Division III Women's Top 20

When Middlebury beat Trinity to win the NCAA championship last spring, Kate Livesay's team made a statement that it was back on top of the Division III world, 12 years after its last title. As for the runner-up, Trinity suffered its fourth NCAA title game loss in a row. Will things stay the same for Middlebury, or will Trinity break through again? With the teams lurking behind them, it could be neither.

1. Middlebury 

Much of the core of last year’s NCAA champion is gone, but the Panthers bring back leading scorer Mary O’Connell and goalie Katie Furber, who went unbeaten in all six of her starts a year ago. The top spot is there until another squad proves it can take down Middlebury.

2. Cortland

With its long win streak snapped in the NCAA semifinals, Cortland is going to enter 2017 hungry to get back to the mountain top. Leading scorers Hannah Elmer and Kristen Ohberg should again be among the best in the country.

3. Trinity

The Bantams have most of their offense coming back, but will need to replace some losses on the backline in the always-tough NESCAC. Trinity’s seniors have played in three NCAA finals, but fallen each time (to Salisbury in 2014, Cortland in 2015 and Middlebury last spring).

4. Franklin & Marshall

The rebuilding program under coach Mike Faith made the NCAA semifinals, and the combination of a lockdown defense and 100-point scorer Paige Moriarty should make the Diplomats a contender once more.


Almost everyone is back for the Lions, who allowed a Division III-best 3.95 goals per game in 2016. Don’t expect teams to have things any easier against the Elizabeth Morrison-led backline.

6. Gettysburg

Don’t be surprised if the Bullets’ Shannon Keeler takes over the mantle of being the top goalie in DIII. She and the rest of the Gettysburg defense will need to keep tough with its two top scorers graduated.

7. Salisbury

Coach Jim Nestor’s team won its third NCAA title in four years when this year’s seniors were freshmen. With all but three players back from last season, they’ll be in the mix to bookend their careers with another.

8. Brockport

Cortland has a big SUNYAC challenger in the Golden Eagles, who went unbeaten against teams that didn’t make the final four last year.

9. Amherst

Two All-NESCAC performers in Hanna Krueger and Rowena Schenck anchor a squad that nearly took down Middlebury last spring.

10. Mary Washington

Second only to perennial power Salisbury in the CAC, the Eagles’ top two scorers from last year are a sophomore (Mary Maguire) and junior (Haley Hudson).


11. Hamilton

Most of the offense returns – including do-everything midfielder Morgan Fletcher (33 goals, 12 assists, 27 ground balls, 13 draw controls, 21 caused turnovers), but the loss of three starting defenders will certainly take a toll in the NESCAC.

12. St. John Fisher

After a dominating season in the Empire 8, the Cardinals hung well with eventual champion Middlebury in the NCAA tournament. With most of last year’s team back, can they take that next step this spring?

13. Colby

All-American Jackie Brokaw returns to lead a defense which allowed just two opponents – Trinity and Middlebury – to score more than 10 goals last spring.

14. Catholic

Only one starter graduated for Catholic, which is expecting big things from a well-seasoned senior class.

15. Tufts

The Jumbos lost their two big guns on offense, but with seven sophomores returning after starting at least six games last year, experience could be a big key to the team’s overall growth.


Led by Paige Moriarty (above), Franklin & Marshall will look to improve on a NCAA semifinal appearance in 2016.

16. Bates

The graduation of Goalkeeper of the Year Hannah Jeffrey and leading scorer Moriah Greenstein will be tough to overcome, but the Bobcats have plenty of talent waiting in the wings, and can rely on Camille Belletete (78 DC) to help them win plenty of possessions.

17. York

Nine of the Spartans' top 11 scorers are back, but the team will have to put up points to help overcome the loss of All-American defender Megan Strauch.

18. William Smith

Last year’s stingy defense (6.45 GAA, 13th in DIII) is intact in front of goalie Sarah Honan, and all but two offensive starters are returning as well for the Herons.

19. St. Mary’s (Md.)

Meg Gesner (31G, 16A) will have to step up after the graduation of last year’s top two scorers from the 16-win team.

20. Ithaca

With the majority of minutes back from last year’s 14-win squad, the Bombers hope to take a step forward into the next eschelon of DIII.