There was a time when capturing the Northeast Conference regular-season title in women’s lacrosse usually included the addition of a tournament crown.
For the third time in the last four years, the regular-season champion was denied the tournament crown and a trip to the NCAA postseason. This time, it was Mount St. Mary’s that was saddled with the disappointment of absorbing a 7-6 loss to visiting Wagner at Waldron Family Stadium on Saturday.
The Seahawks (15-3), the No. 2 seed in the tournament, earned their second consecutive title and third in the last four seasons. The 15 wins are a school record.
Since winning back-to-back tournament championships in 2004 and 2005, the Mountaineers (16-3) have lost in their last four conference title games. The program did set school records for wins in a single season and longest winning streak (13), but that was of little solace to Mount coach Lauren Skellchock.
“It just wasn’t our day,” said Skellchock, a Century and Johns Hopkins graduate. “Sometimes you go out here, and we were really prepared for this, and I just think things didn’t go our way. Offensively, we’d like to have some of those shots back, some of those offensive possessions. Way too many turnovers in a championship game.”
Senior goalkeeper Jillian Petito made a game-high 17 saves as Mount St. Mary’s surrendered the fewest number of goals in a loss since April 7, 2017 when that squad lost to Robert Morris by an identical 7-6 score.
Although no Seahawks player finished with more than two goals, the Mountaineers were forced to spend a disproportionate amount of time on defense because Wagner collected rebounds and reset the 90-second shot clock.
“We were just so greedy,” said sophomore midfielder Madeline Seims, who scored twice for a total of eight goals in two tournament games. “We never gave up. We had each other’s backs on the field. When the ball bounced off as a rebound, we knew we had to help out that teammate who took that shot and get the ball or chase it down. All of those little things counted. We only won by one, but everything mattered.”
Turnovers also plagued Mount St. Mary’s, which gave the ball away a game-high 15 times. Trailing 6-5 with less than 10 minutes left in the second half, senior midfielder Emily Davis’ ground ball appeared to end a Seahawks offensive possession. But she rolled the ball to Petito, who missed it, and Wagner regained possession.
Almost three minutes later, Petito’s outlet pass was too hot for junior defender Kaitlyn Ridenour to handle. And after Seims scored off a free-position chance with 5:33 remaining, Davis grabbed a loose ball off the ensuing draw, but was stripped by sophomore attacker Stefani Peluso.
“It ultimately was the outcome of the game for us,” Skellchock said of the turnovers. “We just weren’t able to have those possessions that we normally have. To their credit, they kept coming up with the ball and getting the ball back. We just had a hard time getting it over to our offense, and when we did come down there, we didn’t convert on our shots. So they played a better game than us.”
The Mountaineers halved the deficit when sophomore midfielder Beanie Colson (Manchester Valley) picked up a ground ball and scored with 2:03 left. The Seahawks won the ensuing draw, but turned the ball over with 21 seconds remaining. Davis was awarded a free-position chance from the top of the arc with 0.6 seconds left, but her shot was turned aside by redshirt senior goalie Kelsey Fee (11 saves) to cement the win.
Mount St. Mary’s starting attack of juniors Kate Kinsella and Carly Miller (Marriotts Ridge) and sophomores Jordan Butler (John Carroll) and Alayna Pagnotta (Glenelg) was limited to three goals on 13 shots, went 0-for-4 on free-position shots, and committed five turnovers. Wagner senior defender Maddie Courtney (Marriotts Ridge) said she and her teammates emphasized cutting off the Mountaineers’ inside chances.
“We prepared marking their cutters and making sure that we didn’t let anyone through,” said Courtney, who picked up three ground balls. “We were able to shut down their top players and also others who were threats.”
After converting 2-of-4 free-position opportunities in the first half, Mount St. Mary’s whiffed on four more in the second half, and Skellchock said the offense was befuddled by Fee.
“The shots we did have, she certainly did a good job of taking away our offensive opportunities,” she said. “And even just [her] getting into our heads a little bit, I think, took the momentum out of us from the get-go. That’s something we need to learn from as a young team.”
Notes: The Mountaineers were represented by Davis, Petito and Ridenour on the All-Tournament team. Wagner placed Courtney, Seims, sophomore midfielder Erin Kerstetter and senior defender Kirsten Monte on the team, and Fee was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Senior midfielder Lauren Britton and freshman attacker Emily Diaz of Bryant and junior defender Madison Burke (Notre Dame Prep) and junior attacker Mackenzie Gandy (Dulaney) of Robert Morris also made the team. … Mount St. Mary’s is now 2-5 in Northeast Conference tournament finals. … Butler capped her season setting a program record for points with 78.