Women's Lacrosse: #3 Norwich vs. #6 Simmons - GNAC Quarterfinal Preview

Women's Lacrosse: #3 Norwich vs. #6 Simmons - GNAC Quarterfinal Preview

TUESDAY'S STORYLINE: #3 Norwich hosts #6 Simmons in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Quarterfinals on Tuesday evening at 7:00 p.m. Norwich (7-4 overall, 7-3 GNAC) is making its sixth straight GNAC postseason appearance, while Simmons (7-6, 6-4 GNAC) is making its third straight appearance.

Last season, the Sharks ousted the Cadets in the GNAC Semifinal round in a 9-8 overtime win. Norwich, who entered the 2013 postseason as the GNAC seventh-seed, never trailed against the No. 3 Sharks until Greer Gilbert gave Simmons the go-ahead goal in overtime.

The Cadets will look to even the score in postseason play in Tuesday's matchup. The two teams met during the 2014 regular season on April 1. Senior Grace Fitzpatrick (Falmouth, Maine) and junior Hope Royce (Washington, Vt.) combined for six goals to lead Norwich to the 12-3 victory. Simmons saw a goal and an assist from Ashley Sheehan, while Gilbert and Ali Stonehouse added single goals.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Norwich won seven GNAC games this season to qualify for the league's third seed. The Cadets' three losses this season game to top-seeded Emmanuel, No. 2 St. Joseph's (ME), and No. 5 Rivier. Norwich has won three out of the last four GNAC games this season.

Simmons won six league games en route to the GNAC postseason. The Sharks finished with the same record as the Rivier, but a loss to the Raiders last week gave them the fifth-seed in the head-to-head tiebreaker.  

THE COACHES: Norwich head coach Beth Van Parys is well-versed in postseason play. In her five seasons at the helm of the program, she has led the team to five straight GNAC tournaments and three GNAC championship titles. The 2011 Coach of the Year, Van Parys has had a slew of successful seasons, including 2011 and 2012, when the Cadets went undefeated in league play. In her career at Norwich, Van Parys has led the team to a 46-26 overall record, a 35-9 record in GNAC play, and an 8-1 record in the GNAC postseason.

Simmons head coach Amanda Maxwell is in her fourth season with the Sharks. Maxwell has led the Simmons women's lacrosse team to the postseason in each of her four years with the program. The Sharks had their best season under Maxwell in 2013, when they finished 10-4 overall and 7-2 in league play. Following their semifinal win against the Cadets, the Sharks advanced to the championship game, where they ultimately fell to Lasell. Maxwell, a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, has compiled a 32-25 overall record at Simmons. She has led the Sharks to a 24-12 record in league play and a 3-3 record in the GNAC postseason.

ABOUT THE CADETS: Norwich enters Tuesday's tournament game with six different double-figure scorers, led by senior Grace Fitzpatrick with a team-best 36 goals and six assists for 42 points. In addition to leading the team in goals, assists, and points, Fitzpatrick also leads the team in ground balls (46), draw controls (33), and caused turnovers (34). She leads the GNAC and ranks 10th in Division III in caused turnovers per game (3.09). Fitzpatrick is one of four players to start all 11 games this season, alongside Hope Royce, freshman Chapel Guarnieri (Pepperell, Mass.), and senior Caitlyn Trepess (Scotia, N.Y.).

Guarnieri and senior Baylie Lamarre (Tyngsboro, Mass.) both have a team second-best 18 goals this season. Guarnieri has three assists to Lamarre's one, ranking her second in the team in points with 21. Junior Gina Conroy (Amherst, N.H.) has scored 17 times with two helpers, while Royce and freshman Meghan Albert (Lanesborough, Mass.) round out Norwich's double-figure scorers with 14 and 11 goals, respectively.

Senior goaltender Irene Okubo (Chicago, Ill.) has played in nine games with seven starts this season. She holds a .446 save percentage and leads Norwich's three netminders in saves with 54. In 469 minutes of action, Okubo has compiled a 8.58 goals-against average, ranking her third in the GNAC.

ABOUT THE SHARKS: The Sharks' offense is led by Greer Gilbert. A sophomore midfielder, Gilbert has totaled 57 points from 47 goals and 10 assists this season, ranking her eighth in the GNAC is points and fifth in goals. Gilbert also leads the Sharks in ground balls (48), draw controls (51), and caused turnovers (26). Junior attacker Stephanie Oliveri ranks ninth in the GNAC in points with 56 from 36 goals and a team-best 20 assists. Sophomore Ashley Sheehan has scored 34 times this season with five assists, followed by classmate Alexia Malone Oliver with 19 goals and two assists.

Junior Crystal Derosier has played every minute of the season in net for the Sharks this season. She has faced 262 shots this season and has saved 122 of them, good for a .466 save percentage. With 140 goals allowed over 787 minutes, she has compiled a 10.67 goals-against average. Derosier ranks fourth in the GNAC in save percentage and has a league fifth-best goals-against average. She ranks seventh in the league in total saves.

WINNER ADVANCES: The winner of Tuesday's game will advance to the GNAC Quarterfinals and will face the winner of the No. 2 St. Joseph's (ME)/No. 7 Johnson & Wales game. The game will be played at the home of the higher seed on Thursday, April 17.