For years, the goal had been specific and focused. The Canisius women's lacrosse team wanted to win a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship. Last year, they did, then quickly found themselves asking, "well, now what?" as they entered the NCAA play-in round.
Philosophies are a bit different for the Golden Griffins this year. A MAAC championship was an expectation. The goal became advancing to the NCAA main field.
Part one of the plan was accomplished last weekend when Canisius (10-8) defeated Fairfield at the Demske Sports Complex to win their second straight MAAC title.
Part two takes place at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, when they play Atlantic 10 champion Massachusetts (18-1) at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst, Mass. It is a rematch of last year's play-in game which UMass won, 16-8.
"Last year I think it was a new experience for us. We were so excited to get it," senior Carly Quinn said. "Not that it's not exciting this year, but I think it was more of an expectation to win. We knew we were capable of it and were just looking to take it to the next level."
"Last year I think it was unconquered territory," Maria Kotas said. "There were a lot of nerves going into that UMass game but this year we have the experience. Hopefully we'll be more confident."
The NCAA Tournament includes five conferences with automatic bids into the 16-team field (America East, American Lacrosse Conference, ACC, Big East, Ivy League). Six other conferences send champions to Sunday's play-in round -- the A-10, MAAC, Colonial, Northeast, Mountain Pacific and Patriot. Those eight teams will be joined by eight at-large teams in the final NCAA Tournament bracket, announced at 9 p.m. Sunday.
Part of the reason for the Griffs' success has been a commitment to the team and to teammates. The supportive environment is often compared to that of a family. So it's not too surprising the "team family" has some real family ties on it -- sisters senior Carly Quinn and freshman Tori Quinn and twins Gabby and Maria Kotas, sophomores from Lancaster.
For the Quinns this season was a unique opportunity.
"We've never really gotten the opportunity to play with each other because we're four years apart," Tori said. "It was nice to get to play with each other and win a MAAC championship together."
For the Kotas twins, it was a different experience. They've grown up playing together and that gives them a certain connection on and off the field.
"When we're struggling, sometimes we go to each other instead of anyone else because we have a different relationship," Gabby said. "Even on the field, we can say things to each other that some of our teammates can't."
"On this team we're all sisters in general," Carly Quinn said. "But we can push each other to different levels. We wouldn't take it personal. We know how to push each other's button to get each other going."
Bengals fourth seed
It's tournament time for the Buffalo State softball team. The Bengals enter the State University of New York Athletic Conference tournament as the No. 4 seed in the six-team field. Buffalo State (20-18) opens the double-elimination tournament against No. 3 Geneseo at 1 p.m. Thursday.
The Bengals have made their way with a powerful offense this season, hitting .302 as a team while averaging 5.6 runs a game. Senior shortstop Kyrstin Lekki (Niagara-Wheatfield) leads the team in most offensive categories. She's batting .461 with eight home runs, 39 RBIs and a school-record 20 doubles.
The Buffalo State men's and women's outdoor track and field teams open competition at the SUNYAC meet on Friday at Oneonta. The Erie Community College women's lacrosse team was ranked for the first time this season, coming in at No. 10 in the NJCAA poll. The Kats (7-6) are coming off an 18-14 overtime win over Jefferson CC, which was ranked 10th in last week's poll. Jason MacBain was promoted to sports information director at St. Bonaventure after Dallas Miller left the school to take a position with the Buffalo Bills. MacBain spent the last two years as the assistant sports information director and notably worked with the women's basketball team during its Sweet 16 run.