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No. 18 nationally ranked women's lacrosse opens against Babson today

LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates women's lacrosse team opens its quest for a NESCAC Championship and an NCAA Championship bid today, as the Bobcats open the 2012 season with a non-conference game against Babson College at 5pm (Video / Live Stats).

Bates is ranked No. 18 in this week's IWLCA Division III Top 20 poll, one of a record nine NESCAC teams who appear in the poll (with Hamilton becoming a full conference member for the first time this season).

It will also be the season opener for the visiting Beavers, who finished 10-8 last season after winning their fifth consecutive NEWMAC title and the automatic fifth straight trip to NCAAs that came with it.

Bates women’s lacrosse finished the 2011 season with a 9-7 overall record, an appearance in the NESCAC Women’s Lacrosse Championship quarterfinals and a No. 19 national ranking. The Bobcats return 12 of their top 14 scorers from last season in hopes of going further in the NESCAC playoffs and earning their first berth in the NCAA Division III Women’s Lacrosse Championship tournament.

The Bobcats also return all three All-NESCAC honorees from last season in senior midfielder and captain Jenna Dannis (Milford, N.H.), junior defender Linnea Fulton (Bristol, R.I.) and senior attacker Joan O’Neill (Westwood, Mass.), the leading scorer in the conference in 2011, who set program records last season in points (70) and assists (26). All three were IWLCA All-Region selections, too, as was now-junior attacker Jenn Brallier (Chamberburg, Pa.), who returns after a breakout campaign in which she tallied 41 goals.

Bates boasted an impressive class of first-years in 2011, led by midfielder Wally Pierce (Weston, Mass.) and defenders Cat Dioli (Ipswich, Mass.) and SooHee Yoon (Lexington, Mass.), whom seventh-year head coach Brett Allen hopes will continue to develop into standouts and team leaders.