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Tough games prepped Bengals for NCAAs

There aremoments when a program feels it has arrived. For Buffalo State women's lacrosse coach Meg Stevens, the moment hit early this week as the Bengals earned an at-large berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.

Buffalo State (13-6) will host Springfield (11-7) at 3 p.m. today in the first round of the 32-field tournament.

The winner will advance to Saturday's second round facing the winner of the first-round match between Bridgewater State and Trinity.

Making the NCAAs and hosting a first-round game have been a bit of a whirlwind.

"It's incredible," Stevens said. "We tried to be excited about it for one day then take the approach of getting back to work and treating it like another game. It means so much for the program. "We're the underdog. We're a team that's not supposed to win. We've won games we shouldn't have won and that makes it even better. It's not just about this year. We went from the bottom of Division III to one of the top 30 teams."

Buffalo State began its women's lacrosse program in 1994. In the first nine years, the Bengals won a total of just 11 games. In the 10 seasons since Stevens took over in 2003, they have won 100.

Part of the key to the turnaround lies in their resilient style of play. The ability to stay calm and focused, even under late deficits, allowed the Bengals to succeed.

Another key developmental factor has been Stevens' scheduling approach. That meant taking on perennial regional powerhouses such as Hamilton, Amherst and Colby.

"I really think our schedule helped us," Stevens said. "We had the hardest strength of schedule in school history We took our lumps against Amherst and Colby, but those games should make us better now."

Buffalo State had key wins over Ithaca, St. John Fisher and Hamilton while beating Fredonia in the SUNYAC playoffs. The Bengals advanced to the conference title game for just the second time in school history, losing to Cortland, ranked second in the nation, 12-5.

Senior Karen Shaddock moved into second place on the NCAA Division III all-time scoring list with 441 career points.

Shaddock led a group of three Bengals who earned All-SUNYAC honors. Also on the first team was senior defender Jamie Hadley who led the Bengals with 49 ground balls. She helped anchor the defense that allowed just 12.24 goals per game this season.

Senior Kendyl Clarkson was a second team selection, setting a school record with 80 assists. She ranks second in Division III with 4.21 assists per game.

> Perfect game for Kowalski

What is believed to be the first perfect game for the Niagara County Community College came last week when sophomore Richard Kowalski tossed one in a 5-0 win at Alfred State. NCCC swept Herkimer CC in the subregional to advance to the Region III Tournament this weekend in Little Falls, N.Y., where they will meet Onondaga Community College on Friday.

Joining them in the tournament will be Erie Community College, which advanced with a sweep of Hudson Valley. The Kats will play Jamestown Community College on Friday.

> Dietrick wins Soloday

Senior rower Mike Dietrick (Orchard Park) won the 2012 Soloday Award, presented each year to one male and one female student-athlete at Syracuse. The award is based on academic achievement, athletic achievement, service to the community and leadership.

Dietrick is a three-year member of the varsity eight, ranked seventh nationally in the final USRowing Collegiate Poll. He also qualified as one of 23 athletes invited to the US Under-23 National team Sweep Camp.