NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – After turning in a record-breaking senior campaign, Saint Joseph's leading scorer Francesca Donato has been selected the 2019 Atlantic 10 Women's Lacrosse Offensive Player of the Year, as voted on by the league's head coaches and announced on Wednesday afternoon. Fourth-seeded Saint Joseph's saw three veteran Hawks earn spots on the All-Conference First Team, three new faces earn spots on the All-Rookie Team, and a pair of junior captains take home Academic All-Conference Team honors.
Donato, junior midfielder Bridget Cerciello, and senior defender Sinead Brierley earned First Team recognition while freshman midfielder Sophia Kolkka, freshman attacker Lauren Figura, and redshirt freshman defender Sarah Platt were voted onto the All-Rookie Team, marking the first time in program history that three newcomers earned the honor in the same season.
Junior captains Cerciello and Julia Pash, both business majors, were selected to the A-10 All-Academic Team, as voted on by the league's Sports Information Directors.
Saint Joseph's three First Team selections ties UMass for the most First Team picks, but the Crimson and Gray was the only program to have a First Team attacker, midfielder, and defender. SJU was also the only program to land three student-athletes on the All-Rookie Team.
Donato turned in one of the most successful offensive seasons in Saint Joseph's women's lacrosse history this spring, leading the team in total points (78), goals (40), and assists (38) through 17 regular-season games (all starts); her points and assists totals were single-season program records. The senior attacker led the A-10 in total points and assists as well as points per game (4.59) and assists per game (2.24) as she scored in all but one contest and totaled 12 multi-goal games, including six games with three or more goals, and 14 games with three or more points.
A two-time A-10 Player of the Week, Donato went for 45 points (24g, 21a) through nine conference games, which included nine-point efforts against Duquesne (4g, 5a) and Davidson (6g, 3a), a seven-point effort (2g, 5a) against VCU, and a six-point effort (4g, 2a) against George Washington. Notably, outside of A-10 competition, Donato combined for 13 points in back-to-back wins over Temple (4g, 3a) and Villanova (3g, 3a) and added a hat trick at then-#17 Johns Hopkins and four helpers at then-#13 Navy.
The honor marks the first A-10 postseason honor for Donato, who becomes just the second Hawk in program history to earn the league's Offensive Player of the Year award, joining Bernadette Smith (2001).
Cerciello excelled as SJU's top midfielder this year with 32 points (28g, 4a) to go with a team-high 68 draw controls alongside 34 ground balls and 17 caused turnovers. Through nine conference games, the junior standout notched 22 points (19g, 3a) and 42 draw controls. She hit the back of the net five times against VCU and four times against Duquesne and added eight draw controls apiece in both of those victories. Additionally, Cerciello registered a hat trick against George Washington and went for 11 draw controls against La Salle. Against nationally-ranked competition, Cerciello tallied a hat trick at then-#17 Johns Hopkins and scrapped for five ground balls at then-#13 Navy.
The honor marks the second A-10 postseason honor of Cerciello's career after earning Second Team midfield recognition as a sophomore last spring.
Brierley transitioned from an offensive to defensive role for her final campaign, broke into a starting role, and never looked back en route to her first A-10 postseason honor. The senior went for team-best numbers in ground balls (49) and caused turnovers (31) - both of which rank third in SJU's single-season program records - while her 18 caused turnovers in league play ranked third among conference defenders. Brierley forced three caused turnovers apiece against Duquesne, George Washington, and George Mason and added four ground balls against the Dukes and Patriots.
Against nationally-ranked competition, Brierley scrapped for four ground balls and two caused turnovers at then-#17 Johns Hopkins and three ground balls at then-#13 Navy. Additional highlights include a career-high four caused turnovers against Delaware and a career-high five ground balls against St. Bonaventure.
Donato, Cerciello, and Brierley tie the program record for most First Team Hawks in one season, joining attacker Nora McCallion, midfielder Maggie Egan, and defender Caroline Hagan from 2016 and attacker Jenna Martino, midfielder Helene Tursi, and defender Abby Renninger from 2009.
Kolkka, Figura, and Platt made their marks in their first collegiate seasons this spring as Kolkka and Figura were SJU's top options off the bench and Platt made every start as a member of the Hawks' defensive unit.
Kolkka made her presence known on both ends of the field. Appearing in all 17 games off the bench, the freshman midfielder led all SJU rookies in ground balls (22) and caused turnovers (21) and added 16 points (13g, 3a) in the regular season. Kolkka notched a career-high four points (2g, 2a) alongside a career-high three caused turnovers against VCU and put away a hat trick down at George Mason.
Figura lit it up in conference play, scoring all 21 of her goals against A-10 competition. Appearing in all 17 games off the bench, the freshman attacker led all SJU rookies in points (25) and goals and tied for the rookie-best assist total (4). Figura scored a career-high five goals against Davidson, four against La Salle, three against St. Bonaventure and VCU, and two against Duquesne, George Mason, and Richmond.
From the first whistle of the season opener against Georgetown back in early February where she posted her career-best numbers in ground balls (4) and caused turnovers (3), Platt was a staple on SJU's back line and went on to make all 17 starts en route to 20 ground balls and 16 caused turnovers on the year. The redshirt freshman was a critical piece of the defensive unit that held Temple and Villanova to eight goals apiece in back-to-back city-rivalry wins and St. Bonaventure and Duquesne to a combined 10 goals allowed in back-to-back A-10 contests. In the regular-season home finale, Platt was a member of the defensive unit that held La Salle to just seven goals allowed over 60:00.
Previous current Hawks to be named to the A-10's All-Rookie squad include senior attacker Rebecca Lane (2016, Rookie of the Year), Pash (2017), and sophomore attackers Stephanie Kelly and Sam McGee (2018).
In addition to their successes on the field, junior captains Cerciello and Pash earned academic recognition for their successes in the classroom. Cerciello makes her second consecutive appearance on the 12-member team while Pash, a defensive staple on SJU's back line with 40 ground balls and 27 caused turnovers - both second on the squad - completes the pair.
The fourth-seeded Hawks (10-7, 6-3 A-10) are set to face fifth-seeded VCU (7-9, 4-5 A-10) in the A-10 Championship quarterfinals tomorrow, Thursday, April 25. Opening draw control at George Mason Stadium in Fairfax, Va. is set for 1:00 p.m. The Rams pulled in a trio of All-Conference Second Team selections in attacker Molly Barcikowski, midfielder Sky Hyatt, and defender Caroline Glenn.