Lacrosse eyes first conference championship since inception
The program might only be in its third year of competition, but head coach Sara Tisdale already has Central Michigan lacrosse on the verge of its first conference title.
The Chippewas (11-5, 4-0 Southern Conference) are in first place — the lone undefeated team in conference play. They are winners of six straight games and have won nine of their last 10.
The only team standing in the way of CMU’s quest for a SoCon Championship and a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament is in-state rival Detroit Mercy at 4 p.m. on April 28.
Tisdale, however, doesn't buy in to the high stakes of this game.
“It’s business as usual,” she said.
The Titans (8-8, 3-1 SoCon) ended Central Michigan’s season a year ago by defeating the Chippewas 17-12 in Mount Pleasant — a game that eliminated CMU from playoff contention.
On April 28, CMU will have the opportunity to secure the program’s first conference title in what may be the biggest game in program history.
“I don’t think we change anything we’re doing,” Tisdale said. “(We plan to) keep rolling with the loose, fun energy and be really focused.”
Detroit Mercy will also claim its first SoCon title if it defeats CMU on Saturday.
“It’s really exciting to see that (CMU) can win the SoCon regular season, so it’s a really big game,” said sophomore attacker Jessica Schuchardt. “We feel ready and this week of practice is going to be good for us.”
CMU began its season with a 2-3 record, but the Chippewas played four of those games on the road and three against Big East opponents.
During a seven-game homestand in Mount Pleasant, the Chippewas found their rhythm with five wins over that span.
Now, Central Michigan hasn't lost since March 31.
“The difference between the past two years and this year is we’ve been able to finish games,” said junior defender Logan Halverson. “I think that just shows how much effort we’ve put into it and seeing the results is really nice.”
Halverson leads the Chippewas with 37 ground balls and 13 caused turnovers. After being relied on to score for CMU earlier in her career, the Minnesota native has transitioned into a defensive catalyst.
“I’ve always had a more defensive mindset,” Halverson said. “Just a different change in a leadership role but I think it’s been great for the team. We’ve had a lot of people step up on offense coming into the program and it’s great to see.”
On the offensive end, a trio of attackers lead CMU in scoring. Natalie Karlen, Anna Schoonover and Schuchardt all have more than 40 points this season — putting them in the Top 10 in SoCon point leaders.
Junior midfielder Jocelyne Lemay leads the conference with three game-winning goals this season.
The SoCon Tournament semifinals will take place May 3 and the championship will be two days later on May 5 in Macon, Georgia.
Detroit Mercy provides the biggest competition for the Chippewas this season, but two other SoCon programs could threaten CMU in the conference tournament.
In Mercer’s 15-13 loss to CMU, the Bears threatened a comeback by outscoring the Chippewas 5-2 in the final 12 minutes.
Mercer ranks in the top three of many statistical categories along with CMU and Detroit Mercy. The Bears also have home field advantage by hosting the championship event.
Furman also poses a threat to CMU in the conference tournament. The Paladins (6-10, 2-2 SoCon) will likely enter the conference tournament on a three-game win streak.
The Chippewas recently defeated Furman 13-10 in South Carolina but needed a high-scoring second half to claim the victory. CMU trailed by three at the end of the first half.
“They know what it takes and it’s all the small pieces,” Tisdale said. “We haven’t arrived and we’re not anywhere near where want to be, but I think you’re seeing all that work pay off.”