The St. Joseph’s College women’s lacrosse team will take a 14-game winning streak into the Great Northeast Athletic Conference playoffs that begin Wednesday.

“It’s pretty special,” said Coach Rupert Lewis. “I’m really enjoying it, considering nobody expected it.”

The Monks (14-1) are far better than anyone expected. They lost eight seniors and the head coach from a team that went 12-8 last year. There wasn’t much recruiting done to replenish the roster.

Then Lewis was approached about returning to the program he started as a club team and led into NCAA Division III varsity status in 2008. He left after the 2009 season to concentrate on his other coaching love, St. Joseph’s field hockey.

“I consider this one of my babies,” he said. “We needed to rebuild. And I guess I got lucky, the first recruit I brought in was outstanding.”

That was freshman attack Elyse Caiazzo of Scarborough (Cheverus), who had started the year at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, but wanted to return closer to home.

Recruited by Lewis to play field hockey, Caiazzo transferred to St. Joseph’s in January.

“She has been exceptional,” said Lewis. “I cannot wait until the fall.”

Caiazzo leads the Monks with 56 goals and 17 assists. This week she was named GNAC rookie of the week for the sixth time.

“She is awesome,” said junior attack Mary Leasure of South Portland (McAuley). “She’s humble, has great stick skills.”

Leasure is second on the team in scoring with 26 goals and 37 assists. Junior midfielder Kat Gadbois of Scarborough is next with 33 goals and 18 assists, and a team-high 78 ground balls.

That’s the thing about this team, said Lewis: It is well balanced and versatile. Early in the year, while he was still learning the players, Lewis had them playing multiple positions in practice and games. He watched them learn to cut, move, pass and make quick decisions. “That’s when their lacrosse IQ really started to go up,” he said.

Now when Leasure calls out one of the four offensive plays the team runs, everyone knows what everyone else is doing.

“I think we have great chemistry and confidence in each other,” said Caiazzo. “When one person is stopped, another comes up and makes the play. Our defense works so well together. We play as a team, we play as a family, not a one-man show. That’s where our success is.”

Leasure said Lewis has made an impact.

“One big difference is that we’re a lot more laid back,” she said. “And he always lets us play, lets us figure it out on the field as a team rather than calling a timeout to talk to us. He still talks from the sideline,but he’s not stopping play to tell us what to do.

“He lets us figure it out and I think that’s making us able to adjust better on the field.”

St. Joseph’s has lost only its season opener, 15-12 to the University of New England. Now the Monks know the pressure is on them to keep performing at a high level. They play No. 8 Rivier College in the GNAC quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Morse High in Bath.

“The pressure is to see how far we can take it,” said Caiazzo.

“There’s always pressure,” said Leasure. “I’ve been telling the girls that we have to act like there’s nothing to lose, no record to hold onto. Every team is 0-0 right now and we have to know that everyone is out to get us.”

BASEBALL

St. Joseph’s College senior pitcher Dan Meeken of Marshfield, Massachusetts, was named GNAC pitcher of the week. Meeken pitched seven shutout innings with a career-high 10 strikeouts in a 6-0 win over Johnson & Wales to extend his scoreless streak to 19 innings. He allowed five hits and two walks.

n St. Joseph’s sophomore outfielder Scott Betts of Peabody, Massachusetts, was named GNAC player of the week. Betts hit .545 as the Monks went 5-2, with 11 RBI, three runs, two home runs and a double.

TENNIS

Junior Charlie Merry of Kennebunkport (Kennebunk) had a strong finish to the season for Saint Michael’s College (2-9). In the season’s final match, Merry recorded a 6-0, 6-0 win at No. 2 singles and an 8-0 win at No. 2 doubles. For the year he was 3-8 at No. 2 singles and 4-7 at No. 2 doubles.

LACROSSE

Bates College sophomore midfielder Charlie Fay of Falmouth recently was named U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Division III North men’s offensive player of the week, as well as New England Small College Athletic Conference player of the week. Fay had nine goals and three ground balls to help the Bobcats to pivotal wins over Tufts and Middlebury. He scored five goals in a 12-8 win that snapped Tufts’ 24-game winning streak, then had four goals in a 14-9 win over Middlebury – the first Bates win over the Panthers. Fay, who missed the first six games of the season with an injury, has 23 goals and four assists for the Bobcats (8-4), along with 12 ground balls and four caused turnovers. Bates is ranked 14th nationally in Division III. The Bobcats close their regular season Wednesday against Colby.

n University of Southern Maine sophomore Sam Campobasso of Buxton (Bonny Eagle) was named Little East Conference women’s offensive player of the week. She had 13 goals and four assists in three games last week, including eight goals against Eastern Connecticut.

n Endicott College junior goalkeeper Cameron Bell of Falmouth was named Commonwealth Coast Conference defensive player of the week. Bell made 32 saves in a 2-1 week for the Gulls, who are ranked fifth nationally in Division III.

n Senior attack Kate Boyer has scored 15 goals and two assists for the Saint Michael’s College women’s team (4-8). She also has six ground balls and 10 draw controls.

SOFTBALL

St. Joseph’s College’s pitcher/outfielder Theresa Hendrix of Scarborough (Cheverus) was named GNAC player of the week for the second time this year. Hendrix hit .533 in helping the Monks go 6-4 last week, adding 14 RBI, 12 runs, six doubles, four triples, one home run and two stolen bases. She also picked up two pitching victories in three appearances with a 1.24 earned-run average and nine strikeouts in 11 innings.

n Sophomore third baseman Erin Giles of Scarborough is hitting .208 with 15 RBI and nine runs for Middlebury College (17-8). Giles has four doubles and one home run.

TRACK & FIELD

USM senior Jamie Ruginski of Buxton (Bonny Eagle) was named Little East Conference field athlete of the week for his performance at the State of Maine championships. Ruginski set meet records in winning the long jump (23 feet, 63/4 inches) and triple jump (51 feet, 23/4 inches) while running the second leg on the winning 1,600 relay. His triple jump distance broke the USM record by more than 18 inches and the meet record by nearly 4 feet. He is ranked first nationally in Division III in the triple jump and ninth in the long jump.

n USM junior Jeremy Collins of Standish (Bonny Eagle) was named LEC track athlete of the week. Competing in the State of Maine championships, he set a meet record in the 400-meter hurdles (53.55 seconds) and ran the third leg on the winning 400 relay team and the anchor leg on the winning 1,600 relay. Collins also is ranked fifth nationally in Division III in the 400 hurdles.

n USM freshman Ron Helderman of Madison was named LEC field rookie of the week. Helderman won the pole vault with a career-best 15 feet, 1 inch in the State of Maine championships.

n Tufts junior Mitchell Black of Brunswick ran the nation’s fastest Division III 800 at last weekend’s Larry Ellis Invitational at Princeton. Black, who won the indoor 800 national title, ran a 1:50.00, setting a school record. He finished 11th overall, with six Division I runners and four professionals finishing ahead of him.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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