EMMITSBURG — Forced to wait more than two years for a shot at atonement, the Mount St. Mary’s women’s lacrosse program was hardly flustered by a 37-minute weather delay and an overtime period.
Beanie Colson’s goal off a pass from Alayna Pagnotta with 4.7 seconds left in the extra session helped the top-seeded Mountaineers overcome a four-goal deficit in the second half and slip past No. 2 seed Wagner, 9-8, in the Northeast Conference tournament final Saturday afternoon before an announced 400 at Waldron Family Stadium.
The team earned the conference’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament and will learn its positioning when the bracket is unveiled Sunday night.
Mount St. Mary’s first conference tournament crown since 2005 was made possible by the connection between Colson, a senior midfielder, and Pagnotta, a senior attacker. With the game clock ticking down to zero, senior midfielder Zoe Hurlburt (Fallston) carried the ball down the right alley before passing it back to Pagnotta at the right point. Colson cut across the slot, caught the feed from Pagnotta, and fired a shot over graduate student defender Giaci Vitolo and junior goalkeeper Lauren DiStefano that slid under the crossbar and into the net.
“I knew there was not obviously a lot of time on the clock,” said Colson, a Manchester resident and Manchester Valley graduate who finished with two goals. “And I know that Alayna is a great feeder. She always has her head up. At that point, there was nothing to lose. So I turned to the goal and just shot.”
Pagnotta, a Woodbine resident and Glenelg graduate who led the Mountaineers (14-2) with four points on two goals and two assists, said she only needed to hear two words from Colson.
“I heard her say, ‘Now, Alayna!,’ and I just chucked it to her,” Pagnotta said. “I had so much confidence in her. I knew she would turn and put it away for us.”
Colson’s heroics did not even seem conceivable for the first 48 minutes. The Seahawks responded to a 2-0 hole by scoring four straight over a 12:41 span in the first half and scored three of the second half’s first four goals to enjoy an 8-4 advantage with 18:50 remaining — their largest lead. Mount St. Mary’s, which scored a season-low three goals in the first half, could not gain its footing on offense against a Wagner defensive strategy that involved sophomore attacker Sarah Shaughnessy concentrating on denying the ball to graduate student Kate Kinsella, the Northeast Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.
“We weren’t settled,” Mountaineers coach Lauren Skellchock said. “We were frazzled from the start. With that faceguard on Kate, I know that it got us out of our rhythm. However, I knew we were going to overcome it, and slowly but surely, we climbed out of that hole.”
The comeback began with a pair of goals from Pagnotta off passes from senior attacker Jordan Butler (John Carroll) with the 11:57 and 11:26 marks of the second half. But immediately after the second goal that made the score 8-6, the game was delayed at 3:45 p.m. by reports of a lightning strike nearby.
The players stayed loose during the 37-minute delay by putting DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” on repeat, dancing, and playing a numbers game called “Dirty Dirty.”
“It definitely didn’t hurt us,” Colson said of the time in the locker room. “It gave us time to relax and keep our energy high. We were able to go into the locker room and dance and play some music and play some games. We were having fun in the locker room, and we were able to reset.”
When the game resumed at 3:22 p.m., DiStefano (a game-high 12 stops) made a stick save against Kinsella on a free-position chance, but the ball popped into the air and into the net behind DiStefano. Colson was credited with the goal with 10:42 left in regulation. Then graduate student attacker Sara Moeller (St. Paul’s) drove the right alley and bounced a shot into the left side of the net to knot the score at 8 with 5:28 remaining.
Skellchock said she never doubted Mount St. Mary’s would rally for the victory and praised a defense that shut out the Seahawks for the final 21:45.
“I think it was just the grit of our team, the belief,” she said. “And we continued to give ourselves opportunities. Our defense, they were empowering. We were confident in the clears, we started winning the draws time and time again, and that was a difference maker.”
Saturday’s triumph was a two-year-long process that began with a heartbreaking 7-6 loss to Wagner in the Northeast Conference title game on May 4, 2019 and exacerbated by a 2020 season prematurely canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Two years ago in this same scenario, we were undefeated coming in, and we were in the championship game and we lost to Wagner by one. That has really stuck with me,” Pagnotta said. “Then last year, COVID canceled everything, and we didn’t get our redemption. So now this just means the world to me.”
Sophomore attacker Megan Greco led the Seahawks with five goals, and graduate student attacker Megan Drum scored twice. But senior midfielder Erin Kerstetter did not score a goal and was limited to two assists by Hurlburt, and Wagner (10-5) lost for the first time in six games — a 15-9 setback to the Mountaineers on April 17.
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Colson, Kinsella, senior goalie Jenna Oler (Wilde Lake), Pagnotta, and graduate student defender Kaitlyn Ridenour were named to the conference’s All-Tournament team. Ridenour was voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.