WATERVILLE, Maine – The Castleton University women's lacrosse team, winners of six consecutive North Atlantic Conference championships, has been chosen by the league coaches as the favorite to win the 2018 title, as the preseason poll was released Wednesday by the conference office.
The Spartans received six first-place votes and 61 total points, just ahead of New England College's two first-place votes and 56 overall points. Colby-Sawyer landed in third place in the poll with 45 points, with Maine-Farmington right behind the Chargers in fourth place with 41 points. Husson collected 34 points for fifth place, followed by Maine Maritime with 25 points, Thomas with 16 points, and Lyndon with 10 points.
Mark Lange enters his first season as the head coach of the Spartans, taking over a program that has won 46 consecutive NAC regular season games. Castleton posted a 12-7 overall record last season, but was challenged in the conference tournament. First, Colby-Sawyer took a 9-8 lead midway through the second half of the semifinal match before Castleton scored seven of the next nine goals on its way to a 15-13 victory. In the championship match, New England College took an 11-6 lead four minutes into the second half before the Spartans rallied with eight of the final nine goals of the game for a 14-12 win.
Three of Castleton's top four goal scorers in 2017 graduated, but Emily Cross returns after collecting 32 goals and 25 assists last season. Erin Shuttle broke through in a big way in the NAC Tournament title game last year, scoring seven goals, including the game-tying and game-winning goals, to earn NAC Tournament MVP honors. Nadine Downing collected 18 goals last season for the Spartans, plus she led the team with 56 ground balls and 57 draw controls.
Samantha Hebb returns in net for the Spartans after making 17 saves in the NCAA First Round game against Westfield State last year. Hebb started all 19 games in net last season, posting a 9.67 goals against average and a .463 save percentage. Erin McKenna will help Castleton on defense after earning a team-high 24 caused turnovers last season as well as picking up 42 ground balls.
Castleton opens the 2018 season at SUNY Canton this Saturday, March 3, starting at 4 p.m. The Kangaroos posted a 6-9 record last season, including a 3-1 mark in home contests. This will be the first meeting all-time between Castleton and SUNY Canton.
After Saturday, Castleton opens a three-game homestand against Western New England Tuesday, March 6, starting at 4 p.m. at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans then face Southern Maine Saturday, March 10, at 12 noon, and University of New England Monday, March 12, at 4 p.m.