WATERVILLE — The Colby College women’s lacrosse team is back in the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time in a few years. The Thomas College softball team is going to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.

Over the last few days, both teams learned where they’ll be playing. On Sunday night, Colby found out it earned a bye out of the first round. The New England Small College Athletic Conference champions are 15-3, ranked No. 3 in the country, and will face the winner of a first-round game between Plymouth State and Middlebury on Sunday in Middlebury, Vermont.

“We really became more cohesive,” said Colby tri-captain Emilie Klein, who scored four goals in the Mules’ come-from-behind win over Trinity in the NESCAC final. “We improved constantly throughout the season.”

Thomas will travel to Williamstown, Massachusetts this weekend for a first-round game against Williams. Rensselaer and Staten Island round out the Terriers’ four-team regional tournament.

“They’re a very good team, no question about it. We’ve played them before in Florida. We know they’re a very good opponent,” Thomas coach Terry Parlin said of Williams. “It’s been quite a while trying to make it happen, and it happened when we didn’t expect it. We’ve been playing real good softball, and hope to continue.”

Thomas won the North Atlantic Conference title as the No. 3 seed in the league tournament. While the Terriers overall record is 14-21, they went 7-5 in regular-season league play before their 3-0 run in the NAC tournament. Thomas is one of two teams in the tournament with a sub-.500 record. The other is Franklin and Marshall (15-20).

The Terriers enter the double elimination NCAA playoffs with a seven-game win streak. Senior outfielder and Sidney native Courtney Veilleux said something just started to click for the team with back-to-back sweeps of Lyndon State and Johnson State.

“Something happened to us toward the end of the season and we started playing as a team,” said Veilleux, who scored the winning run in Thomas’ 2-0 victory over Castleton in the NAC championship game. “Everybody came out strong and we knew we were playing like the team we knew we could be.”

Winning the conference tournament and the automatic bid to the NCAAs was especially sweet after finishing as NAC runner-up each of the last two seasons, Veilleux said.

“It’s a great feeling,” Veilleux said. “We’ve had our ups and downs.”

A slow start on the spring trip to Florida didn’t dampen Parlin’s enthusiasm.

“We were 2-12 in Florida, and I saw glimmers back then. I never gave up on them. I told them, ‘I don’t care how bad you play now. There’s things that you’re doing that are telling me you’re going to be a good team at the end.’ We’ve always played well in the conference championship. Anything can happen. All of a sudden, everything came together and we played good ball.”

Like Thomas, the Colby lacrosse team overcame a slow start. The Mules were 2-3 after five games, but they haven’t lost since March 21. After finishing the regular season in a four-way tie for the conference lead, Colby was the No. 4 seed in the NESCAC tournament. The Mules beat No. 1 Middlebury, 10-9, before knocking off No. 3 Trinity, 13-9, in the championship game. The Mules trailed 9-7, before clinching the win with a six-goal outburst.

“I just think this team is really committed to each other, and they never stop believing,” Colby coach Karen Henning said.

The Mules last played in the NCAA tournament in 2014, when they reached the quarterfinals. This is Colby’s ninth appearance in the tournament, all coming since 2006. This was Colby’s third conference title and first since 2009. Playing in the ultra-competitive NESCAC, which had five of its 11 teams qualify for the NCAA tournament, helped the Mules prepare for this opportunity, Klein said.

“We always have competitive games,” Klein said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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