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Globe West Sports Notebook

For Renner, Rizzo, a day to remember

By Marvin Pave
April 3, 2011

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Amherst College juniors Jackie Renner of Newton and Livia Rizzo of Dover will always remember March 19, 2011.

That’s the date the top-ranked Lord Jeffs defeated old nemesis Washington University, 64-55, at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Shirk Center in the national title game of the NCAA Division 3 women’s basketball championships.

Amherst (32-1 overall, 9-0 New England Small College Athletic Conference) had lost in the national semifinals the previous two seasons to Washington. Last year, Amherst was 31-0 prior to the Final Four, then suffered an 86-75 overtime loss to the St. Louis school.

The 6-foot Renner (an alumna of Newton South High and Worcester Academy) was indispensable during a late-season charge that enabled Amherst to become the first NESCAC school to win the women’s basketball national title.

Amherst was the second New England school to accomplish the feat in the tournament’s 30-year history. The first was Salem State in 1986.

Renner came off the bench to provide a spark both in Amherst’s semifinal win over Christopher Newport University, 69-59, and in the title game. She played 22 minutes in the semis, scoring 6 points, going 4 for 4 from the free-throw line, and adding a pair of assists and 4 rebounds.

In the final, Renner logged 31 minutes, scored another 6 points, including two clutch late-game free throws, and had 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks.

“Jackie has made a big impact on our program since she arrived at Amherst and she was huge at this year’s Final Four,’’ said Amherst head coach G.P. Gromacki. “She played multiple positions and steadied our team at the point guard position. Without Jackie we would not have won the national championship.’’

Renner started in 18 games this season, averaging 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds per game, with 65 assists, 22 blocks and 21 steals before elevating her game when it counted most.

The 5-foot-10 Rizzo, a three-year forward on the Amherst women’s soccer team, played in 26 games as a reserve for the basketball team, averaging 1.5 points and 2 rebounds per game and chipping in with 5 steals.

“It was meant to be,’’ Dover-Sherborn High graduate Rizzo said of the national championship. “I had so much fun this season, with great leaders and with seniors who deserved to end their college careers on this high note. There was no one else we would have wanted to play that day.’’

Gromacki said Rizzo was “a true team player and one of the best athletes on the team. I always expected hard work and excellence from Liv.’’

Four get Bears off to perfect start The best start (6-0) in the history of the women’s lacrosse program at Bridgewater State University has been fueled by four senior starters from area communities — leading scorer and midfielder Courtney Len non, a Medfield High graduate; second leading scorer and attack Jenny Jones (Framingham High); starting goalkeeper Katie Weber (Arlington High); and midfielder Bethany Bush (Littleton High).

Lennon had 22 goals and 14 assists, Jones 27 goals and 4 assists, and Weber had a 10.0 goals-against average and .413 save percentage going into Thursday’s game against Wheaton College.

Cocaptains Lennon and Jones were standouts in the Bears’ back-to-back wins earlier this season against State University of New York Potsdam (13-12 in overtime) and MIT (9-8). Lennon scored the game-winning goals in both contests.

Jones and Lennon each had three goals and an assist against MIT, a game in which Jones became Bridgewater’s all-time leading scorer (244), passing Framingham’s Shannon Manning (228), who graduated last spring.

“Courtney is a two-year captain and a big threat in all aspects of the game, and we wouldn’t be as successful without Jenny, who is an offensive leader,’’ said the school’s head women’s lacrosse and field hockey coach, Erika Smith. “Courtney has already been honored this season as New England Women’s Lacrosse Alliance Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week, and Eastern College Athletic Conference Player of the Week,’’ she noted.

“Bethany is one of the best field hockey players ever at Bridgewater and a true athlete with incredible speed and quickness who has helped our defense immensely,’’ added Smith, “and Katie, who is determined and will do anything to help her team, was the top field hockey goalie in the Little East Conference last fall.’’

Zais sets Wheaton swimming record Wheaton College senior swimmer Nicole Zais of Sudbury completed a standout college career by recording the highest individual finish at an NCAA championship in program history.

The Lincoln-Sudbury High graduate earned her third All-America honor by placing sixth in the 200-yard breaststroke in the NCAA Division 3 championships, held at the University of Tennessee.

“Nicole played a large role in bringing our team from moderately competitive regionally to a player at the national level,’’ said J.P. Gowdy, head coach at the Norton school. “Her ability to stay focused and driven and do what it takes every day to reach her swimming goals was like no swimmer I’ve ever coached.’’

Keohane to coach Rivers football Bentley University assistant Dan Keohane is the new head football coach at the Rivers School in Weston.

Keohane replaces Rick Fisher, who has taken an assistant coaching position at the University of Nebraska. Before shifting to Bentley, Keohane had been a Globe Coach of the Year at Waltham High, where he compiled a 101-31-1 record.

Rivers was undefeated in the regular season last fall.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com or 508-820-4223.