Navy Captures First Patriot League Women's Lacrosse Championship
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Led by senior team captain and tournament MVP Erin Rawlick's five-point effort, the Navy women's lacrosse team (16-3) outscored top-seed and host Lehigh (14-4) by a 6-3 margin over the final 30 minutes on its way to capturing its first Patriot League Championship with a hard-fought 11-9 victory on Sunday afternoon at the Ulrich Sports Complex.
Winners in seven of its last eight and of a school-record 16 games this spring, Navy will host Northeast Conference champion Sacred Heart (14-4) in an NCAA play-in game next Saturday, May 8 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at 2:00 pm. The winner of that contest will earn a berth into the NCAA Women's Championship's Field of 16.
"I am just so happy for our girls. This was the next step for the program and it was great that this senior class was able to finish their career by winning the conference tournament," said Navy head coach Cindy Timchal, who has guided the Mids to a 42-12 record over their first three seasons of varsity play. "We knew it would be a tough game, but I thought we played extremely tough today ourselves and answered the challenge. We did a great job on defense and I thought that wound up being the difference."
Rawlick, who came just one point shy of tying a Patriot League Tournament scoring record with 11 points on the weekend, finished with three goals, two assists and a game-high four draw controls in the win. Juniors Katrina Nietsch (New Canaan, Conn.) and Caitlin Mandrin Hill (Annapolis, Md.), who contributed two goals apiece on the afternoon, as well as standout sophomore defender Abby Ellis (Ooltewah, Tenn.) joined her on the all-tourney team.
"I thought Erin played like the league's player of the year today," said Timchal. "She scored some critical goals for us and came up with some big ground balls. And she did it all with the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year (Lauren Dykstra) on her."
"This is just huge for the program," said an ecstatic Rawlick, who ran her nation-leading point total to 105 (72 g, 33 a). "In just three years, we have come a long way. Today was the final step."
Despite having controlled the pace and leading for much of the opening period, the Mids would trail 6-5 at the break after a late four-goal flurry by the Mountain Hawks.
"The potential for the Navy women's lacrosse program is limitless. This is just the first step in a lot more things to come."
Senior Mary Ruttum, an Annapolis native and one of six Navy seniors who have remained with the team since its 2007 club season.
After being held without a goal in the team's regular-season meeting on April 17, Rawlick put that performance behind her immediately and got Navy onto the scoreboard first with an eight-meter goal just 2:22 into the contest. Lehigh would respond with a pair of goals, each set up by Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Lauren Dykstra, to take a 2-1 lead at the 24:23 mark.
Navy would calm its early-game jitters and start to find its footing, as freshman Jasmine DePompeo (Sayville, N.Y.) scored the first of four unanswered with a quick shot off a feed from sophomore Danielle Vivonetto (Rocky Point, N.Y.) at 21:31. A perfectly-placed shot by Katrina Nietsch gave the Mids a 3-2 advantage just 39 seconds later. Nietsch then added a free-position goal from the top of the arc at 13:21 to extend the lead to two. Over seven minutes would elapse before the contest's next goal. This time it came off the stick of Vivonetto, who picked up a rebound after her own shot struck iron and put home her first of the day at 6:05 to make it a 5-2 game.
The host Mountain Hawks would break a 19-minute, eight-second scoreless drought on another Dykstra free-position shot with just 5:15 left in the period. That goal would open the door for Lehigh to tie things up on back-to-back tallies from Inneke Carmola and Allison Thomas in a 15-second span beginning at the 2:20 mark.
The Mountain Hawks nearly added another right off the ensuing draw, but sophomore Navy goalie Elaina Ponchione (Silver Spring, Md.) stuffed Megan Kelly on a breakaway opportunity to temporarily keep things tied at 5-5. With 1:16 left in the period, however, Kelly would break through, scoring off a feed from Dykstra to put the hosts on top headed into the half.
Out of the break, the Midshipmen were a determined lot and it showed over the first 15-plus minutes as Navy reeled off four of the first five goals in the period. Rawlick got things started off a feed from classmate Mary Ruttum (Annapolis, Md.) at 24:08 and then made it a 7-6 Navy advantage just under three minutes later, scoring off a Depompeo feed.
After an Allison Thomas goal tied things up at 19:54, Rawlick would return the favor with a pretty feed in close to Ruttum, who put home her ninth career postseason goal to put the Mids back in front by an 8-7 count. Mandrin Hill would follow her lead and punch in an eight-meter attempt with 14:13 to play to make it a two-goal Navy lead Thomas, who would account for all three of Lehigh's second-half goals, would strike again after a Navy turnover near midfield, once again cutting the deficit to one at 9-8.
With a lot riding on the contest's next goal, a key save by freshman goalie Michelle Verbeeck (Wading River, N.Y.) on Carmola, a first-team league all-star, helped pave the way for the Mids to extend their advantage on a Mandrin Hill transition goal.
After regaining possession, Nietsch rushed Navy up the field, showing off the blazing speed which has earn her all-conference laurels in each of first three seasons with the Blue and Gold, and found Mandrin Hill streaking to the cage for her second goal of the day.
Lehigh would win the ensuing draw and answer right back as Thomas scored on a mad dash to the cage just 10 seconds later to make it a 10-9 contest with 6:52 remaining in regulation.
Navy would gain possession after a Lehigh turnover and wisely run some clock before Rawlick, who notched four of her five points (2 g, 2 a) in the second half, found Vivonetto to seal the deal with an insurance tally at the 3:41 mark.
Verbeeck played the final 31:16 in relief of Ponchione, making three saves to earn her second collegiate victory. Ponchione earned the started and played well in 28-plus minutes of action, turning away four Mountain Hawk attempts.
The final statsheet accurately reflected the even nature of Sunday's contest, as the two teams registered 22 shots apiece and the ground ball (Navy, 12-9) and draw control categories (Lehigh, 13-10) both were very close. Navy did a tremendous job taking care of the ball on the afternoon, committing just nine turnovers to Lehigh's 14, after giving the ball away 17 times in the team's regular-season meeting two weekends prior.
The win was Navy's second in five meetings against Lehigh. It is the second-straight year that the Mids have avenged a regular-season loss to the Mountain Hawks by topping them in the postseason tournament.
"This is huge for the program," said Ruttum, an Annapolis native and one of six seniors who have remained with the team since its 2007 club season. "This is the one thing that the seniors had not accomplished yet. The potential for the Navy women's lacrosse program is limitless. This is just the first step in a lot more things to come."
2010 Patriot League All-Tournament Team
Erin Rawlick, Navy (Tournament MVP)
Katrina Nietsch, Navy
Caitlin Mandrin Hill, Navy
Abby Ellis, Navy
Lauren Dykstra, Lehigh
Inneke Carmola, Lehigh
Allison Thomas, Lehigh
Meg O'Leary, Holy Cross
Amy Martin, Holy Cross
Courtney Miller, Colgate
Christina Roa, Colgate
## Go Navy! ##