AMHERST, Mass. – Third-ranked Amherst College scored 10 unanswered goals and went on to register a 21-6 victory over ninth-ranked Plymouth State University Sunday afternoon in one of four NCAA Division III Women’s Lacrosse Regional Championship games.
Senior Liz Martin (Baltimore, Md.) netted six goals for the second straight game, while junior Ashley Harmeling (North Reading, Mass.) scored four goals and dished out five assists to lead the defending national champion Jeffs to the national semifinals for the fourth consecutive season. Amherst will face top-ranked Middlebury College – which advanced with a 20-6 win over Wheaton College – next Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at St. John Fisher College’s Growney Stadium in Rochester, New York.
Plymouth State, which had advanced to the Regional Final with the first NCAA Tournament victory in the program’s history on Saturday, a 14-12 decision over Ithaca College, completes its record-breaking campaign at 17-1 overall. The loss also snapped PSU’s overall winning streak at 26 games.
The Panthers came out strong as senior Katie Sheridan (West Sayville, N.Y.) found the net just 26 seconds into regulation. The two teams swapped goals over the first 12 minutes, including two from PSU senior Michelle Norton (Sandwich, Mass.), and the visitors clung to a 4-3 lead until the 15:00-mark. The Amherst offense then exploded with a 7-0 run, including a trio of scores by senior Allison Aldrich (Cornwall, Vt.), to close the half with a 10-4 advantage.
“We knew they would come out strong,” said Amherst coach Christine Paradis. “They’re a very good team. They wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t played very good lacrosse. We were concerned about stopping their top players, like No. 18 (Sheridan). Our goal was to win the midfield, play smart defensively, and win the ground balls and the draw controls.”
The Jeffs tacked on three more goals in the opening minutes of the second half to stretch their lead to 13-4. The Panthers showed signs of life, netting a pair of scores just 23 seconds apart, by senior Jill Matteson (Chatham, Mass.) and sophomore Bethany Brown (Norwich, Conn.), respectively, but Amherst closed with eight straight scores to improve to 16-2 on the year.
“They had some great defensive pressure, and they were really good on the ground balls,” said PSU head coach Wynne Lobel. “We did some nice things on center draws, but you’ve got to win the ground balls. They (Amherst) are used to this level of competition, and the score doesn’t reflect the game.”
Aldrich finished with five goals and two assists for the Jeffs, while classmate Jackie Sargent (Concord, Mass.) and sophomore Caitie Parker (Bethesda, Md.) each found the net twice. Junior Cate Smith (Saint James, Md.) and first-year Alyssa Briody (Hopewell, N.J.) scored a goal apiece as well.
The Amherst defense was smothering, limiting Plymouth St. to just 16 shots while forcing 19 turnovers. Junior Olivia D’Ambrosio (Farmington, CT) collected seven saves in net.
The five Panthers seniors – Sheridan, Norton, Matteson, Villanueva and defender Cathy Berei (Trenton, N.J.), wrap up their careers with a four-year record of 59-11, four conference championships, two ECAC Tournament berths, and two NCAA Tournament berths.
“Being undefeated, setting all the records, being on this team,” said Norton, “this was the best season we could’ve asked for.”