Navy Advances to First NCAA Tournament with 12-2 Win Over Sacred Heart
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Five different players scored at least two goals leading the Navy women's lacrosse team to a 12-2 victory over Sacred Heart on Saturday afternoon in an NCAA Play-In Game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The win, Navy's eighth in nine games and school-record 17th this spring, sends the third-year Midshipmen program to their first NCAA Tournament in school history.
"It is a very special time for Navy women's lacrosse," said Navy's Cindy Timchal, who becomes the first Division I coach to lead three different programs to the NCAA Tournament. "I tribute the players on this team, our senior leadership and Erin Rawlick, our team captain, for leading us to our first Patriot League Championship and now our first NCAA Tournament berth. This is one we'll never forget."
Sophomore Danielle Vivonetto (Rocky Point, N.Y.) paced the Mids with her 13th hat trick of the spring, running her season total to a career-best 62 goals. Rawlick, junior Katrina Nietsch (New Canaan, Conn.) and freshman Kathy Young (Berwyn, Pa.) each finished with two goals and one assist to their credit.
The Mids got off to a bit of a slow start despite registering the contest's first two goals and outscoring the visiting Pioneers by a 6-2 margin over the first 30 minutes.
"We knew that Sacred Heart was going to be tough as the three-time NEC champions and having been in the play-in-game in each of the last two seasons," said Timchal. "We had some jitters early on, but I thought we settled down and started to play our game as we got later into that opening half."
Sacred Heart nearly opened the scoring at the 22:56 mark, but sophomore Elaina Ponchione (Silver Spring, Md.) made a point-blank stop on Kate Kmiotek to keep the Pioneers off the board. Ponchione would only be credited with four saves on the day, but both of her two first-half stops came at critical junctures as Navy struggled to find its rhythm.
Rawlick would put the Mids on the board with free-position goal just over a minute later, giving Navy a lead it would not relinquish on the day. Vivonetto followed with her 60th goal of the year off a feed from Kathy Young at 19:38 to make it a 2-0 game.
Despite the early deficit, the Pioneers remained patient on the offensive end and it eventually paid off as Kaitlin Rocher put the visitors on the board after a scoreless stretch of 18:31 to open the contest.
Rawlick answered for the Mids using a picture-perfect split dodge to evade a pair Sacred Heart defenders and firing home her 74th goal of the season with 10:21 left in the half. A free-position goal from Mandrin Hill would make it a three-goal Navy advantage before Nietsch delivered back-to-back strikes only 38 seconds apart to extend the lead to five goals at 6-1 with 3:05 remaining.
Carissa Hauser, the 2010 NEC Player of the Year, managed to get a goal back for the Pioneers, scoring her 47th of the year with just 2:01 remaining in the period. The explosive senior nearly cut into the deficit further just 11 seconds later, but after winning the ensuing draw and racing to the cage, she had her apparent goal waved off for entering the crease.
The Mids began to assert themselves and did a better job of dictating the pace of play over the final 30 minutes. An unassisted Vivonetto tally just 2:24 into the period made it a five-goal Navy lead.
Bell would add to the advantage off a Rawlick feed at 18:37 before back-to-back goals from Kathy Young, including a beautiful roll dodge and score at the 11:00 mark, put the contest out of reach. With the game securely in hand, Bell and Vivonetto would each add goals over the last five-plus minutes to create the final margin.
Navy outshot Sacred Heart, 22-15, won 11 of 16 draws and won the ground ball battle by a 17-14 count on the day.
Ponchione went the entire 60 minutes in goal for the Mids, earning her 14th victory of the spring. Her counterpart, Chelsea Wagner, the 2010 NEC Goalkeeper of the Year and the nation's leader in save percentage entering the week, made six saves (three in each half) in a losing effort.
It was the fifth time this season, the Mids, who entered this week with the nation's seventh-ranked scoring defense (8.21 ga/gm), have shutout an opponent for an entire half of play. Moreover, the two goals-against marks a season-low total, matching the output that Fresno State (March 7) and Howard (Feb. 5) amassed against the Navy defense.
Navy concludes its 2010 home slate with a 12-1 mark (.923). The Mids are now 30-4 (.884) all-time in Annapolis.
The loss, meanwhile, snapped a 12-game win streak for the visiting Pioneers, now three times a bridesmaid after falling in the play-in game for a third consecutive season.
The Navy women will learn its next opponent on Sunday night when 2010 NCAA Tournament's 16-team field is announced on the CBS College Sports Network at 10:00 p.m. First-round play will be held on campus sites on Saturday and Sunday, May 15-16.
"It's been an amazing ride," said Rawlick. "We came out a little bit slow today, but the important thing is that we got the job done. All of us are just so thrilled to be in the NCAA Tournament. To be one of just 16 teams still playing is just a blessing. As a senior, I can't think of a more exciting way to finish my career."
*The Mids are just second Naval Academy women's team to earn a berth into the NCAA Tournament, joining the women's soccer program which advanced to the national tournament three times (2003, '06 and '07).
*This will mark the NCAA-best 22nd national tournament appearance for Navy's esteemed head coach Cindy Timchal. Timchal, whose all-time record now stands at 379-98 (.794), led the University of Maryland to the NCAA Tournament in each of her 16 years in College Park. Prior to her tenure with the Terps, she led a then-fledgling Northwestern program to five tournament appearances during a nine-year run as head coach. In three seasons at Navy, Timchal has helped guide the Mids to a 43-12 (.781) mark.
## Go Navy! ##