By Steve Solloway
When pitcher Kayla Vannah and her Saint Joseph's College teammates sailed through the conference softball tournament, winning all four games by shutouts, Coach Jamie Smyth knew he had a good team. How good is another question.
Saint Joseph's plays Springfield College today in the first round of the NCAA Division III regional tournament at Babson College. It's an eight-team, double-elimination tournament with Tufts (38-3) and Rowan (37-2) getting the top seeds. Tufts is ranked nationally and won the regional title last year.
Saint Joseph's (33-11) is the fifth seed; Springfield (26-18) is seeded fourth. The two schools don't meet during the season and have only one common opponent. There simply aren't enough open dates on Saint Joseph's schedule to play more of the top teams in the region.
"The top four teams -- Babson is the third seed -- I've never seen before. We haven't played them. You know they're good because they're in the tournament."
But how good? The answers will come over the next few days.
This is Saint Joseph's third straight trip to the NCAA regional after winning the Great Northeast Athletic Conference championship. His players don't have a just-happy-to-be-here attitude.
"I like to recruit kids who have the expectation of winning," said Smyth. "We've been fortunate to win and go on to the regional tournament. That's part of the challenge of coaching. You try to continue developing good players and good leaders."
Vannah (Waldoboro) is a senior and a teammate on two previous NCAA tournament teams. She has a record of 11-6 and an ERA of 1.52 with 74 strikeouts and 19 walks over 110 innings pitched. She was MVP of the GNAC tournament. Rae-Marie Copan (Newton, Mass.) follows Vannah in the rotation with a 12-2 record, 1.73 ERA, 88 strikeouts and just three walks over 89 innings pitched.
Shortstop Lindsay Moore (Barrington, N.H.) and catcher Heather Tripp provide a lot of punch. Moore is batting .468 with 20 doubles, two home runs and 39 RBI. Tripp is hitting .333 with 16 doubles, four home runs and 39 RBI. Danyelle Shufelt (Sutton, Vt.) has a .452 average and the quickness to leg out five triples and steal 22 bases.
Springfield has a power-laden lineup with 22 team homers. Mound ace Jennifer Joseph (Stamford, Conn.), has worked 131 innings, striking out 143 and going 15-7. Her ERA is 1.75.
The baseball team makes its bid for a spot in the NCAA Division III regional tournament this weekend. The Polar Bears play at Wesleyan Friday in the quarterfinals of the New England Small College Athletic Conference tourney. After a 12-game winning streak, Bowdoin has lost three of its last six games for 23-13 overall and 8-4 conference records. ... The women's tennis team got an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III regional tournament and plays the winner of the Bridgewater State-Endicott match Saturday at Pickard Tennis Courts on campus.
UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND
Beth Suggs (Bath) and Aidan McParland (Brockville, Ontario) were named the female and male Athletes of the Year. Suggs was a force on the women's basketball team and led the Nor'easters to their first-ever win in the NCAA Division III regional tournament this winter. McParland started all of the men's soccer games in goal, compiling a 1.31 goals-against average and four shutouts. Michaela Moran (Atkinson, N.H.) and Devin Thompson (Winthrop, Mass.) were named the female and male Rookies of the Year. Moran helped lead the women's cross country team to its first conference championship, placing fourth overall. Thompson scored 20 or more points six times for the men's basketball team. ... The men's lacrosse team plays Wentworth Institute of Technology for the ECAC Division III New England championship Saturday at 1 p.m. on the Biddeford campus.
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MAINE
Junior midfielders Jacki Kelly (Brunswick) and Rosie Forster (Andover, Mass.), senior defender Jessica Gassman (Kennebunk) and junior goalie Kim Vogel (Sanford) were voted onto Little East Conference all-star teams in women's lacrosse. Lauren Reid was named Coach of the Year for the second time. The women, 12-7 and 5-1, are seeded third in the ECAC Division III New England tournament and play second-seeded Mount Holyoke College Saturday at 1 p.m. at Western New England University. ... Dylan Kenney (Portland) was named the Defensive Player of the Year in LEC men's lacrosse. Kenney, senior attacker Kyle Baker (Kennebunk), senior midfielder Mark White (Oakville, Ontario) and senior long-stick midfielder Chris Roop (Gorham) were named to all-conference teams. The men finished with a 5-11 overall record, 1-6 in the conference. ... Senior pitcher Jessica Hayden (Madison) and senior catcher Stefanie Stockwell (Buxton, Bonny Eagle) were named to conference all-star teams in softball. The Huskies finished with a 9-31 overall record and 4-10 in the conference.
Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: