A new conference shuffle coming

The cards have been shuffled and dealt, and conferences will be looking for a new winning hand.
D3sports.com photo illustration

By D3sports.com staff

A decade ago, a Mid-Atlantic Shuffle created the Landmark Conference and set off a string of dominoes that eventually remade the Capital Athletic Conference, Colonial States Athletic Conference (then the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference), both MAC Commonwealth and Freedom, the North Eastern Athletic Conference and the Skyline Conference.

Now, multiple sources tell D3sports.com, some speaking on the condition of anonymity since an official announcement has not been made, eight schools are in the process of leaving their conferences to form a new one starting in 2018-19. The eight schools in the discussion are Cabrini, Gwynedd Mercy, Immaculata, Neumann and Marywood from the Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC), Marymount and Wesley from the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) and Arcadia from the MAC Commonwealth.

Other conference changes

Here's some of the other recently announced changes in conference alignment:

The move would reshape the Mid-Atlantic and Atlantic regions across a range sports, take one of the founding member from the CAC and remove the strongest programs from the CSAC. The new conference would be eligible for automatic bids to the NCAA playoffs beginning in 2020-2021, assuming they begin conference play in 2018-19.

Wesley’s football membership in the New Jersey Athletic Conference would not be a factor.

Sources indicate the process has progressed far enough that an announcement could come as soon as the end of this month, before the CAC has its annual conference meetings.

“Several of our institutions are considering other conferences primarily for fit reasons - the size and type of institutions, resources spent per athlete, and travel considerations,” said Capital Athletic Conference assistant commissioner Tim Mowrer. “At this point, no official actions have been taken and we continue to have a collegial and cooperative working relationship among the 10 schools in the conference.”

The Middle Atlantic Conference and Colonial States Athletic Conference were contacted but did not comment on the record in time for this edition of the story. However, D3sports.com staff spoke with multiple people across the affected conferences in the weeks leading up to this story's publication.

The move would have the biggest impact on the CSAC.

How they finished

Here's how each of the eight schools finished this past season in fall sports in their respective conferences.

Arcadia (MAC/MACC) 11th 11th 3rd 5th 2nd 6th
Cabrini (CSAC) 4th 10th 2nd 3rd 2nd 1st
Gwynedd Mercy (CSAC) 3rd 9th 1st 6th 5th 8th
Immaculata (CSAC) 9th 4th 6th 2nd 4th 6th
Marymount (CAC) --- 5th --- 8th 8th 3rd
Marywood (CSAC) 2nd 1st 3rd 7th 1st 4th
Neumann (CSAC) 7th 11th 5th 5th 6th 3rd
Wesley (CAC) 8th 6th 6th 9th 10th 10th

The CSAC hands out the President’s Cup trophy to the program with the highest competitive rating across all sports. Cabrini has won 11 of the last 16 trophies with Gwynedd Mercy winning two and Marywood one of the remaining five. The other two trophy winners, Misericordia and Eastern, left the conference in 2008 to join the MAC Freedom. Setting the potential departing schools aside, no current member of the conference has won the overall trophy or the trophies for men’s or women’s sports since its inception in 1994-1995.

The impact on the CSAC’s ability to retain automatic qualifying bids to the NCAA playoffs would vary widely by sport. For example, the CSAC would still have enough teams to retain its AQ for women’s basketball. It would be two short of the seven-team minimum for men’s basketball and three short of the seven-team minimum for field hockey, pending any additions.

The CAC would lose Marymount and Wesley, dropping its membership to eight in many team sports. Marymount is one of the four remaining charter members of the CAC, along with Mary Washington, St. Mary’s (Md.) and York (Pa.). The other two charter members, Catholic and Gallaudet, left the conference in 2007 and 2010 respectively.

Winter sports

Wesley also has indoor track, and finished third in men's, second in women's in the CAC.

Arcadia (MAC/MACC) 8th 7th 3rd 3rd
Cabrini (CSAC) 2nd 5th N/A N/A
Gwynedd Mercy (CSAC) 3rd 3rd N/A N/A
Immaculata (CSAC) 5th 6th N/A N/A
Marymount (CAC) 4th 3rd 3rd 3rd
Marywood (CSAC) 7th 1st N/A N/A
Neumann (CSAC) 1st 2nd N/A N/A
Wesley (CAC) 5th 9th --- ---

Wesley is a relatively new conference member after moving from the CSAC (then known as the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference) to the CAC in 2007.

Arcadia also left the CSAC for the MAC Freedom in 2007 and then moved to the MAC Commonwealth a year later. The MAC Commonwealth would still have eight teams in most sports after Arcadia’s departure, and even more in sports such as cross country where the Commonwealth and Freedom conferences compete as one.

In the previous shuffle, Catholic, Drew, Goucher, Juniata, Merchant Marine, Moravian, Stevens and Susquehanna left the MAC Commonwealth, Capital Athletic Conference, Skyline Conference and MAC Freedom to create the Landmark Conference. (Stevens later dropped out of the Landmark and was replaced by Scranton.)

This set a long shuffle of programs into motion. Hood, Villa Julie (now Stevenson) and Wesley moved into the CAC. Arcadia and Manhattanville moved to the MAC Freedom. The Skyline Conference added Purchase to help fill the hole left by Merchant Marine, Stevens and Manhattanville. Notre Dame and Centenary moved into the PAC/CSAC to fill the space left by Arcadia and Wesley … and the shuffle continued as more PAC/CSAC teams moved into the MAC and schools moved into the PAC/CSAC. Schools joined Division III and moved into the NEAC.

The new conference could set off yet another shuffle. The CSAC would need, really, a minimum of four schools to retain some of its key automatic bids.

Spring sports

The CAC and CSAC do not sponsor women's golf.

Arcadia 2nd 7th 5th 7th --- --- 4th 4th 5th
Cabrini 7th 1st 1st 1st --- --- 4th 1st 4th
Gwynedd Mercy 4th --- 3rd 7th 4th 4th 6th 5th 1st
Immaculata 2nd 4th 5th 4th 7th 6th 3rd 2nd 3rd
Marymount 4th 5th 7th 7th --- --- --- --- ---
Marywood 5th 3rd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st 6th 2nd
Neumann 3rd 5th 5th 3rd 6th 7th 2nd 3rd 7th
Wesley 4th 6th 9th 8th 3rd 2nd 6th --- ---

Let’s use history to suggest where those schools could come from. The last time around, the PAC got schools such as Clarks Summit (then Baptist Bible), Cairn (then Philadelphia Bible) and Keystone from the NEAC. The current NEAC has 14 schools, some of which sit within the CSAC footprint: St. Elizabeth, Penn State-Abington, Penn State-Berks and maybe even Lancaster Bible. If the NEAC felt the need to replace these schools, Alfred State and SUNY Canton could be available.

Now, let’s consider the Capital Athletic Conference. Since the last Shuffle, the CAC expanded from eight to 10 schools. Removing Marymount and Wesley leaves the following members in the CAC: private schools Southern Virginia and York (Pa.) and public schools Christopher Newport, Frostburg State, Mary Washington, Penn State-Harrisburg, Salisbury and St. Mary's (Md.). Meanwhile, the CAC would fall short of the automatic bid standard in field hockey.

However, Southern Virginia has made overtures to the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, which would be a better fit geographically, and would fill a need the ODAC has for an eighth football program. And there has long been a delicate balance in the CAC between public and private institutions. If Southern Virginia leaves, which could happen soon after this new league's official announcement, York would be the only private institution left in the CAC.

And the shuffle could easily continue from there.

Contributing: Gordon Mann, Dave McHugh, Pat Coleman, D3sports.com

Thomas More to withdraw from PAC

Thomas More president David Armstrong announced Wednesday that the school will end its 12-year membership in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference at the conclusion of the 2017-18 academic year.

Thomas More will compete in the PAC regular seasons and conference championships of 19 league-sponsored sports during the 2017-18 academic year.
“Thomas More College has appreciated its time in the PAC and its member institutions. We look forward to competing in the conference during the 2017-18 academic year while establishing a path for the future of our athletic programs that fits our mission as a Catholic liberal arts college that has a reputation for excellence in the classroom and on the field. With record enrollment growth and plans for campus revitalization, we feel it is the best time for TMC to seek new partnerships which will enhance our strategic goals,” said Armstrong.

“As a former coach and director of athletics, I’ve had the opportunity to represent the PAC in various capacities and certainly cherish my time serving as chair of the PAC’s Presidents’ Council throughout the 60th anniversary celebration during the 2014-15 academic year. The PAC has been and will continue to be a nationally-respected conference. We are excited to compete in our final seasons this academic year with the PAC and wish our colleagues well in the future.”

Located in Crestview Hills, Kentucky, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, Thomas More was announced as the league’s seventh member on April 7, 2005 after spending nine years as a Division III independent. Thomas More fields teams in 22 varsity sports and has sent 71 teams to NCAA championships since joining the NCAA in 1990.

“We have valued our partnership with Thomas More since 2005 and appreciate all of its efforts to support our institutions, our student-athletes and our conference. We have all benefited from Thomas More’s presence in our league over the last 12 years and we certainly wish them the best moving forward,” said commissioner Joe Onderko.

Gettysburg women capture second lacrosse title

Sophomore Steph Colson scored with 2:57 left and Gettysburg rode out the remaining time after winning the final draw control to secure its second NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse championship with a 6-5 victory over top-ranked The College of New Jersey Sunday at Kerr Stadium on the campus of Roanoke College.

Gettysburg (21-3) earned its second national championship in its first appearance in the title game since 2011. The seventh-ranked Bullets avenged a one-goal regular season defeat at the hands of TCNJ (19-2) earlier in the season by netting the final two goals of the game following a four-goal run by the Lions.

"It was a hard-fought victory," said coach Carol Cantele. "Two exceptional teams giving it their all, battling to the final finish. I'm so proud of the fight that our players had and their hustle and heart."
Colson posted a pair of goals in the game and added a second national title to the family mantle with younger sister Lizzie helping the University of Maryland win the Division I title over Boston College on Sunday afternoon. The Gettysburg sophomore took care of business late in the game, completing a clear attempt and beating her defender with a strong charge to the cage.

"Sometimes when you're running down the field you just get tunnel vision and if you see one girl in front of you, you just have to take it," noted Colson, who was named NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

Gettysburg athletics photo by Keith Lucas

Senior Emma Christie tallied two goals and senior goalie Shannon Keeler posted six saves and three ground balls. Keeler, senior attacker Caroline Jaeger and junior Cassie Smith were each named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team. Juniors Elizabeth Morrison, Amanda Muller and sophomore Abby Flagler were named to the team from TCNJ.
Gettysburg's second national crown did not come without its share of adversity. The Bullets carried a 4-1 lead into the break, but TCNJ did what great teams do in these situations by mounting a furious comeback. Mia Blackman kicked off a four-goal run with a free-position goal with 25:58 to play. Kathleen Jaeger, first-cousin to Gettysburg's Jaeger, tallied the game-tying goal with 17 minutes left. The defenses pitched a shutout over the next nine minutes before Kathleen Jaeger snuck through the defense and ripped a shot into the net to make it 5-4 with 8:34 left.
"We knew they're very good drivers and knew how to create opportunities for getting on the eight," noted Cantele. "You could also see that moment of where they said this is not happening. They're one of the most competitive teams we go up against year-in and year-out."
The Bullets, ever confident in their skills and abilities, did not fold under the pressure and it was a first-year that helped set the stage for a thrilling end. After Jaeger controlled the ball for Gettysburg, freshman Courtney Patterson found a seam in the defense and forced her way to the front of the cage for the equalizer with 7:36 to go.
"I think it speaks to their mentality all year," said Cantele. "They know the game isn't over until the final whistle blows. They've focused all season on being in the now and thinking strong and being fully present."
After getting beat 5-1 on draws in the first half, Gettysburg grabbed 6-of-7 draw controls in period two. The Bullets managed to grab the ensuing draw and ran two minutes off the clock before a turnover. The miscue didn't prove costly as junior Ali Gorab caused a turnover and Keeler recovered the ground ball.
That set the stage for Colson's late-game heroics in just her fifth game back from an injury that sidelined her seven weeks. Junior Katie Willis fought her way to the final draw control to seal the victory. Gettysburg's passing was pristine as the team evaded the last-ditch effort to regain possession by TCNJ.
"This is an absolute dream," said Keeler. "But it came with a lot of hard work and tears, and ups and downs, and adversity. I'm not that surprised because I knew this team was special. There's just some sort of chemistry that I'd never experienced before. Everyone was just so motivated by the same vision."
After beating Trinity (Conn.) 8-4 in the semifinals on Saturday, Gettysburg carried that momentum into its sequel with the Lions. The Bullets turned in the first two goals with Colson scoring the first unassisted and Christie the second on a free-position goal. Amanda Muller scored for TCNJ to make it 2-1, but Gettysburg shut down the Lions' attack as Keeler recorded five of her saves in the opening half.
"Our mindset just followed from yesterday," said Caroline Jaeger. "We just wanted to play exactly how we did when we were up yesterday. That second-half run against Trinity was big for us and we just tried to keep that same mindset going into today."
Christie tacked on another free-position score and Jaeger laced a free-position shot of her own into the goal to give Gettysburg a 4-1 leading heading into the break.
Following the game, Cantele was quick to point out the leadership of her five seniors – Christie, Jaeger, Keeler, Macauley Mikes and Katelyn Neillands. After the final horn sounded, the five seniors were among the first to grab the national trophy and hoist it high.
"They've been an outstanding group," said Cantele about her senior class. "They've all led in very different ways and different manners, which is outstanding because people respond differently to types of leadership."
Mikes finished with two ground balls and one caused turnover and wrapped up her collegiate career having appeared in a program-record 86 games. Neillands tallied one ground ball and a caused turnover.
Gettysburg tied the program record for victories in a season and shattered the program and conference record for goals against average at 4.78. Keeler finished with the lowest single-season GAA by a player at 5.00, while closing her career with a record 66 wins.
The Bullets defeated two No. 1 teams this season for the first time in program history. Gettysburg took out No. 1 Franklin & Marshall College 12-6 on April 5. The Orange and Blue only had one victory over a No. 1 team prior to 2017.
The team posed for a multitude of pictures after the game with tears and smiles aplenty among the players and staff members. It was a dream season for Gettysburg, and one that will not be forgotten any time soon.
"It couldn't happen to a greater group of individuals," said Cantele. "It couldn't have happened to a better institution. They've represented our institution so famously, with passion and energy. It was a great experience from start-to-finish." 

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