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Mueller is difference-maker as Virginia edges Navy, 15-12

Bill Wagner
Contact Reporterbwagner@capgaznews.com

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Goalkeeping and the offensive creative of midfielder Sammy Mueller were the difference in a typically close women’s lacrosse game between Navy and Virginia.

Mueller amassed eight points while net-minder Charlie Campbell stopped nine shots as the sixth-seeded Cavaliers outlasted the Midshipmen, 15-12, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on a rainy Sunday afternoon at Klockner Stadium.

Mueller, a junior out of the Hackley School in New York, scored six goals and dished off two assists to spark an efficient offense that scored almost every time it got the ball. Senior midfielder Maggie Jackson had a hat trick for Virginia (13-6), which advances to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014.

“I think it was more of a hump for me since I’m the one who has been here so long,” Virginia head coach Julie Myers said of snapping a string of four straight losses in either the first or second round. “For the girls to be able to get into that round of eight is definitely big.”

Junior attack Nora Bowen and freshman midfielder Courtlynne Caskin scored two goals each for Virginia, which will meet Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina next Saturday.

“Virginia is just really, really good on the offensive side. The Mueller-Jackson combination is lethal, then you add in some of the supporting players and that is a very tough team to stop,” Navy head coach Cindy Timchal said. “We had some defensive lapses at times that didn’t help.”

Junior attacker Kelly Larkin had three goals and three assists to lead Navy (16-5), which led 1-0 then never again. Sophomore attack Nicole Victory totaled three goals and an assist for the Midshipmen, who failed to reach the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament after doing so in 2017 and 2018.

“We fought until the very end, but unfortunately we just came up a little short. I’m still really proud of the team for the way we played,” Larkin said.

Senior attacker Andie O’Sullivan had a hat trick for Navy, which dominated possession actually out-shot Virginia 29-2. Freshman Reagan Roelofs led the way as the Midshipmen captured 19 of 28 draws.

“I thought Navy did a phenomenal job on the draw controls, but we were getting stops on the defensive end and coming up with loose balls,” Myers said. “We were making them work hard for everything they got. They had to take a lot of time off the clock in order to get what they wanted.”

It was the identical score as the season opener between the schools, which Virginia won at Klockner Stadium on February 9. Navy’s problem in both meetings was an inability to stop shots.

Starting goalie Gab Harchelroad only made three saves while backup Abbi Young had none on Sunday, robbing the defense of the emotional boost that comes from turning away a potential goal.

“That’s a big thing in a game like this. We have to go back to the goalie handbook on that one and reset, refocus,” Timchal said. “We need more saves in big games like this in order to compete for a national championship.”

Mueller totaled two goals and an assist while freshman attackman Lillie Kloak had a goal and assist during a 7-2 run that gave gave Virginia a four-goal lead with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half.

Virginia answered every Navy goal and maintained a four-goal lead the rest of the way in taking a 9-5 halftime lead.

Bowen and Avery Shoemaker scored less than a 1 ½ minutes apart to push the advantage to 11-5 at the 24:58 mark of the second half and it appeared the visiting Midshipmen were in trouble.

However, that is when Navy started dominating the draws with Annelise Heyward (nine controls) and Harris (four) providing Roelofs (five) with great support.

Larkin totaled two goals and two assists as Navy outscored Virginia 7-3 to cut the deficit to 14-12 with 3:20 remaining. That made the next draw control crucial and Caskin came up with it thanks to a pushing call on the Mids.

The Cavaliers milked most of the 90-second clock before putting the ball in the stick of Mueller, who drove hard to the goal then stopped and fired a shot into the top corner to clinch the win.

“I’d say for the last eight to 10 minutes we were trying to take time off the clock then running plays to score,” Myers said. “Sammy knows she has the green light if she has the ball and sees a lane. Sammy is tough as nails, composed and confident. She definitely wanted that ball in her stick today.”

Navy (16-5) 5-7=12

Virginia (13-6) 9-6=15

GOALS: N – Larkin 3, Victory 3, O’Sullivan 3, Harris, Heyward, Lecker. V – Mueller 6, Jackson 3, Bowen 2, Caskin 2, Kloak, Shoemaker. ASSISTS: N – Larkin 3, Victory. V – Mueller 2, Kloak, McGovern. SHOTS: N – 29. V – 25. SAVES: N – Harchelroad 3, Young 0. V – Campbell 9. DRAWS: N – 19. V – 9. GROUND BALLS: N – 12. V – 15.

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