Lydia Dexter of St. Joseph’s College is the leading scorer in NCAA Division III women’s lacrosse with 80 goals and 75 assists. Photo courtesy of St. Joseph’s College athletics

STANDISH  — Lydia Dexter knew her St. Joseph’s College women’s lacrosse team was going to be good before the season began. Very good, in fact.

“I remember bringing the team in after our first week of practice and saying, ‘I don’t think we should lose a regular-season game this year,’” she said. “We all kind of set that as the goal coming into the season.”

It’s one thing to set a lofty goal. It’s another to reach it. But with a 20-0 record and a Great Northeast Athletic Conference championship in hand, the Monks can cross that objective off the list and replace it with another as they head into the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time since 2015.

St. Joseph’s, which beat Rhode Island’s Johnson & Wales 10-9 in the GNAC final, will play SUNY Geneseo in the first round of the NCAAs at 1 p.m. Saturday in Middlebury, Vermont. The winner will play Middlebury College, the No. 1 team in the country.

“The girls have just set so many firsts. It’s really exciting,” said Coach David Keenan. “It’s just been a great ride, to watch them and be a part of it. … We started this journey three years ago, and to think that we could have the chance to play a Middlebury in the second round is just unbelievable.”

Keenan took over as head coach before the 2020 season. That spring was lost because of the pandemic, and last year’s was cut short after a 6-2 start when the team was shut down because of COVID.

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The Monks had a chance for a full season again this spring, and they wanted to make it a special one.

“We’ve had high expectations for the season set right in the fall, which I think helped us a lot,” said sophomore midfielder and former Gorham player Carson Battaglia. “Everyone kind of went in with the attitude of ‘we have a lot of potential, so let’s use it and roll with it.’”

Sophomore Megan Mourmouras, who played at Biddeford High, is a midfielder for the 20-0 St. Joseph’s College women’s lacrosse team. Photo courtesy of St. Joseph’s College athletics

Sophomore midfielder Megan Mourmouras, who played at Biddeford High, said winning the conference title was a goal for the team.

“We got kind of got ripped off last year,” she said. “This year, we were ready to grind and ready to go.”

They’ve been led by a special player. Pacing the team and breaking records in the process has been Dexter, a Messalonskee High grad whose brothers, Sam and Jake Dexter, have played professional baseball. Lydia Dexter has been a force in her first season as a graduate student, ranking first in the country with 155 points on 80 goals and 75 assists. All three figures are school records.

“I wouldn’t say I am the most athletic person by any means. I’m not that fast, I’m not that quick,” Dexter said. “But I like to attack my weaknesses, and I do put a lot of time into it. That is because I genuinely love it and I just like to get better at things. I like to challenge myself.”

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“She gets a lot of attention for what she’s done on the field,” Keenan said, “but I’d say she contributes as much, if not more, off the field with the example she sets with her work ethic. … She’s the hardest-working player I’ve had at any level.”

Like her team, Dexter has followed an unusual path to success. She was recruited by the University of Maine to play field hockey, only to transfer first to Salisbury College in Maryland, and then to St. Joseph’s in order to play lacrosse and field hockey. Surgery to repair a torn ACL knocked her out of her junior field hockey season in 2019, and after she recovered, she switched her focus to lacrosse full time.

“I kind of avoided my field hockey friends for a little bit, I didn’t want to confess to them that I’d switched to the dark side,” she said. “But I just started playing, and it wasn’t long before I fell in love with the team, the culture, the whole program and the sport.”

Sophomore attacker Bridget Collins is the Monks’ second-leading scorer with 66 points and 54 goals. Photo courtesy of St. Joseph’s College athletics

As the oldest player on a young team, Dexter, 23, has been looked at as the Monks’ leader as well as their best player.

“I’ve never met an athlete that’s put in so much time and dedication. Every single day, she’s out here getting work in,” Mourmouras said. “I don’t think anyone wants to win more than Lydia Dexter does.”

“It’s literally like having a third coach out there,” said sophomore attacker Bridget Collins. “She helps us with everything.”

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Dexter, however, eagerly brought up how her assist totals reflect the balance throughout the St. Joseph’s lineup. Collins is second on the team in points (66) and goals (54). Battaglia (40 goals) and Cailyn Wesley (38) have also provided a scoring punch, and Mourmouras, Messalonskee grad Shauna Clark and Brianna Paul also have over 40 points. On defense, with freshman goalie Morgan Wright in net, the Monks are allowing 5.7 goals per game, fourth-lowest in the country.

That depth has already paid off, as goals by Collins, Clark and Battaglia allowed the Monks to rally back from an 8-7 fourth-quarter deficit and defeat Johnson & Wales in the conference final.

“During the game, I knew we were going to win,” Collins said. “I feel like we all knew it.”

Now another challenge begins, one the Monks have been waiting for.

“Last year, we really got robbed,” Collins said. “We get to show them what we can do.”


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