AMHERST, Mass. – The Plymouth State University women’s lacrosse team registered the first NCAA Tournament victory in the program’s history Saturday afternoon with a 14-12 decision over Ithaca College in the Regional semifinals at Amherst College.
The undefeated Panthers (17-0) advance to the NCAA Regional Championship Game Sunday at 1:00 p.m. against defending national champion Amherst (15-2), which defeated the University of Scranton 20-4 in the first semifinal. Sunday’s winner moves on to the Division III Final Four next weekend at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y.
PSU also extended its school records for wins in a season and consecutive victories (26, dating back to last season).
“That was a great match-up,” said PSU head coach Wynne Lobel, a 1993 Ithaca graduate and former player for the Bombers. “We knew we deserved to be here, and we showed we can compete with the best teams in the country. Winning this game is huge, because we’ve never won an NCAA game before.
The Panthers opened up an early 5-0 lead as senior Katie Sheridan (W. Sayville, N.Y.) and sophomore Bethany Brown (Norwich, Conn.) each netted a pair of goals. Ithaca finally got on the board as junior Mariah Casserly (Canton, N.Y.) scored unassisted at the 15:43-mark, but Sheridan dished out two of her career-high five assists down the stretch to help PSU to a 7-3 lead at the break.
“I was just looking for the open player,” said Sheridan, “and looking to make good decisions and not trying to force it. I wanted to get us going. We needed some momentum. Whoever starts it, it doesn’t matter, it gets the whole team going.”
Plymouth State stretched its lead to 12-5 in the first 12 minutes of the second half as Sheridan dealt assists just 10 seconds apart to classmate Jill Matteson (Chatham, Mass.) and Brown, respectively, and then scored a pair of her own, separated by only 2:15. Ithaca rallied behind senior Michelle Schlegel (Liverpool, N.Y.) – who notched five consecutive goals in the game – to go on a 6-0 run and cut the lead to just one, 12-11, with 6:00 remaining. However, Sheridan scored the game-winner just 10 seconds later, winning the draw and firing a bounce shot from the 12-meter line.
“We knew we had to get it done, and the whole team was pretty pumped,” said Sheridan. “Their comeback was a little scary, but we knew we could hold them off. Our defense came through, and our whole team came through.”
“After it was 5-0, we needed to slow them down, ” said Ithaca head coach Karen Hollands, a 1994 Ithaca grad and former college teammate of PSU’s Lobel. “We changed our defense, and that created some more opportunities for us in the second half and we were able to get back into the game. But give them a lot of credit.”
Sheridan finished with five goals and five assists to lead the Panthers, while Brown tallied five goals as well. Freshman Meg Cupoli (Southboro, Mass.) posted three goals and senior Michelle Norton (Sandwich, Mass.) had three assists, while senior goalie Carmen Villanueva (E. Schodack, N.Y.) collected 10 saves.
Schlegel led Ithaca with five goals and two assists, and fellow senior Lauren Smith (Amherst, N.Y.) and Casserly scored three goals apiece. Senior Angela Marathakis (Albany, N.Y.) nabbed 10 saves for the Bombers, who end their season at 12-5.
Sheridan continued her assault on PSU and Division III scoring records. She extended her team-leading season totals to 78 goals and 30 assists, matching the school-record 108 points she set last season. Sheridan is now fifth on the all-time Division III goal-scoring list with 269, and tied for seventh in the career points department with 360.
“Amherst is the defending champion, and they are disciplined, hard-working, and fundamentally sound,” said Lobel. “We will have to play a great game (Sunday), play our game, and play a smart game.”
(Courtesy Amherst Sports Information)
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