EMMITSBURG — Tuesday marked the two-year anniversary of one of the more solemn moments in the history of the Mount St. Mary’s women’s lacrosse program.
On May 4, 2019, the Mountaineers, the Northeast Conference regular-season champion and the top seed in the ensuing tournament, suffered a 7-6 upset by No. 2 seed Wagner in the title game and missed out on what many assumed would be a matter-of-fact coronation. Many of the players who watched the Seahawks celebrate at Waldron Family Stadium are on the current team and have not forgotten that memory.
“I remember the feeling,” graduate student attacker Kate Kinsella said. “We were talking about it and saying, ‘Hey, two years ago, we lost. So let’s go. This is our time.’ This is the best team we’ve ever had. We’re all confident in each other, and that’s what we’re looking forward to on Saturday.”
Mount St. Mary’s, the No. 1 seed in the league tournament, will get an opportunity to make amends after avoiding an upset bid by No. 4 seed Bryant in a 12-10 decision Wednesday afternoon in a tournament semifinal. The Mountaineers (13-2) extended their winning streak to 13 games and will meet Wagner, the No. 2 seed again, in Saturday’s championship final at home at 1 p.m.
The Seahawks (10-4) took advantage of a 6-0 run in the first half to rout No. 3 seed Long Island, 16-8, in the other semifinal. The Sharks finished their season at 9-5.
Earning a chance to capture the program’s first tournament crown since 2005 has been a season-long motivation.
“That’s all we talk about, that’s our main focus,” senior attacker Jordan Butler said. “That’s been our goal from the first day of practice in the fall until now – winning the conference championship. I think we’re all way more experienced now as opposed to two years ago. We were a really young team, and now everybody that starts and plays is a veteran. So we know what to expect.”
Mount St. Mary’s has recently been an imposing presence in the Northeast Conference, winning 22 consecutive regular-season games against league rivals. But even coach Lauren Skellchock acknowledged how that accomplishment pales in comparison to claiming a tournament championship.
“They’re certainly a confidence booster, but I think we all know that none of those mean anything if we don’t meet our end result, which is to win on Saturday and go to the NCAA tournament,” she said. “But I think this is a much more confident, poised, resilient Mount team that I’ve coached. Reflecting back on that championship, we came out flat, we were scared, and that wasn’t the same team that I saw all season. So I know that we’re going to be thinking about that, and they’re going to remember it, and we certainly hope there’s going to be a different outcome this time.”
Whether the Mountaineers were going to assure themselves of that opportunity seemed uncertain after the first 30 minutes when they were tied 5-5 at halftime with a Bulldogs squad that had lost two previous meetings this spring to Mount St. Mary’s by a combined score of 37-22.
Butler, a Bel Air resident and John Carroll graduate, scored four goals in the first half and added two more in the first 15 minutes of the second to keep her team in the hunt.
“If my teammates’ shots aren’t falling, I need to step up and make sure that mine go in,” she said of her mindset. “I couldn’t let my teammates’ shots not going in deter how I played. … I have a lot of confidence and trust in my teammates. If their shots aren’t falling, I still have trust in them that they will get there.”
Butler’s faith was renewed by Kinsella, who scored all three of her goals and contributed her lone assist in the final 16:19 of the game. Over that span, the Mountaineers outscored the Bulldogs, 6-4.
Kinsella, who said the coaches emphasized at halftime using fastbreaks to accelerate the game’s pace, said she played better after shaking off a few cobwebs.
“I was in my head a little bit in the first half, and I don’t know why. I just was,” she said. “But once we talked about the plays we wanted to be in, that’s when things started flowing more. … We were like, ‘It’s 0-0 again. It’s a new half.’ And we thought they hit their peak in that first half. So we were ready to go in the second half.”
While Butler and Kinsella provided the spark on offense, the defense got a lift from graduate student defender Kaitlyn Ridenour (two caused turnovers and three ground balls) and senior midfielder Beanie Colson (two caused turnover and two ground balls). Skellchock was particularly impressed by senior goalkeeper Jenna Oler, the Columbia resident and Wilde Lake graduate who made 12 saves – many of the sparkling variety.
“There were a lot of opportunities where she made point-blank saves on uncontested shots, and she was just keeping us in,” Skellchock said. “She’s been doing it all year. I know that we’ve had some marginal wins, but she’s always coming up with big saves for us.”
Senior midfielder Devon Bolen paced Bryant (7-6) with three goals, two assists and seven draw controls, sophomore midfielder Skylar Simmonds contributed two goals and two assists, and senior goalie Giana Kapoosuzian stopped 12 shots. But coach Brianna Roche said the offense lost some steam in the last 10:22 when the Bulldogs were outscored 4-2 by Mount St. Mary’s.
“We couldn’t quite capitalize on the offensive side to really keep them on their heels for the full 60 minutes,” she said. “We tried to keep the ball moving and tried to get some off-ball looks. We just couldn’t quite put the ball away. We were close, right at the edge of getting above that 10-goal mark, but we just fell short.”
Northeast Conference final
WAGNER@MOUNT ST. MARY’S
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