BY JEFF FALK
From places where most people aren’t permitted and others don’t even know exist, the whispers about the Lebanon Valley College women’s basketball program are becoming more audible. What they are saying is that the Flying Dutchmen are approaching levels of success that have rarely been experienced before, in the proud 100–year-plus history of athletics on the Annville campus.
On Saturday evening at Brubaker Gymansium in Grantham, Lebanon Valley, the 19th-ranked NCAA Division Three club in the country, captured its third straight Commonwealth Conference championship with a 46-43 triumph over rival and 13th ranked Messiah. During the defensive struggle, the Flying Dutchmen did not take their first lead of the game until 1:26 remained, with a lay-up that made it 43-41.
Lebanon Valley had entered the the four-team, two-day conference postseason as the third seed, partly because of two losses to regular-season champion Messiah. During its past three championship campaigns, Lebanon Valley has won a total of 101 games – and counting.
The outcome made LVC 24-3 overall, while Messiah slipped to 23-4.
The Flying Dutchmen trailed 16-12 at halftime of the defensive struggle between the two conference giants. But Lebanon Valley outscored the Falcons 34-27 over the second 20 minutes of action.
Lebanon Valley faced its largest deficit of the evening in the middle of the first half, at 13-4. The Flying Dutchmen knotted the score at 39 on a pair of Kiely Chaklos free throws with 2:39 left, then assumed its first lead on a couple of charity tosses from Tierney Hiltz, 1:03 later.
With 36 seconds left, Kaitlin Bach gave the Flying Dutchmen a 43-41 edge with a lay-in. Bach would provide what would prove to be the winning points with free throws in the waning seconds.
Bach and Hiltz paced the Flying Dutchmen with 13 points apiece. Lebanon Valley, which was guilty of 14 turnovers, was out rebounded by Messiah 41-31.
Lebanon Valley College held the Falcons to 27 percent shooting from the field. The Flying Dutchmen made good on 14 of 16 foul shots and outscored the Falcons by six points there.
With the championship in its back pocket, Lebanon Valley will host the opening two rounds of the NCAA Division Three women’s basketball tournament, on Friday and Saturday at the LVC Gymnasium in Annville.
On Friday at 8 p.m., Lebanon Valley will challenge number 24 and 26-2 Baruch, which recently won its sixth consecutive CUNYAC championship. Before that, at 6 p.m., 27-0 and fifth-ranked Montclair State, one of only two undefeated women’s teams in Division Three, will meet 23-4 Regis, the champions of the NECC.
The survivors of those contests will clash on Saturday at 6 p.m. at LVC for a berth in the Sweet 16.
Since taking over a team which went 7-18 in 2005-06, LVC head coach Todd Goclowski has compiled a remarkable 150-46 overall mark in his seven years in Annville. This season marked the Flying Dutchmen’s sixth straight Commonwealth Confernece championship game appearance.