Second Straight NEC Crown for Women’s Lacrosse

The top-seeded Hawks won their second consecutive Northeast Conference (NEC) title over the weekend with wins against Mount St. Mary’s and Bryant. Senior defender Gianna D’Urso was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, leading a defense that allowed 8.5 goals over the weekend and she cause three turnovers.

D’Urso was shocked that she won the MVP award. She explained, “I was really shocked honestly, it’s great but to be honest, I felt that our whole team deserved it. I truly believe that every single person on our team could have gotten it.”

The Hawks held on to defeat fourth-seeded Mount Saint Mary’s in the NEC Semifinal Friday afternoon on Kessler field by the final score of 12-9. MU was led offensively by the NEC Offensive Player of the Year, junior midfielder Kaleigh Gibbons.  She had six points on three goals and three assists. Senior attacker Cassie Campasano found the back of the net three times, while sophomore midfielder Karlee Dean registered a pair of goals off the bench.

The blue and white wasted little time to score as they won the first four draws of the game, which all led to goals. NEC Rookie of the Year, freshman midfielder Marial Pierce, scored the first goal for MU, as she cut across the crease and ripped a shot past Mountaineers net minder Sarah Jane Leder.

After that, Campasano scored off of a feed from Gibbons. Dean scored back-to-back goals to force Mount to take a timeout. After the time out, Mount’s Lindsay Diaz scored off a free position shot with 22 minutes remaining in the first frame.

The Hawks answered right back with three straight goals.  The first two came from Gibbons and the third was from sophomore midfielder Allison Stathius with two minutes left in the first.

The Mountaineers tried to chip away at the Hawk’s lead with a minute left as Molly Morris scored with a shot past MU’s goalie Katie Donohoe.  However, with 13 seconds remaining, Gibbons tallied her sixth point of the half with her third goal of the game to give MU an 8-2 lead going into halftime.

The second half began similarly to the first half as the Hawks scored 35 seconds into the frame with a goal from Campasano off an assist from sophomore midfielder Emily Barbieri.  Barbieri scored her first goal of the game 1:10 into the half as she fired a shot that rang off the pipe and went into the back of the net.

Campasano scored again and senior attacker Erica Abendschoen scored back-to-back goals to increase their lead to 12-2. The Hawks were able to hold on as Mount’s Kaitlyn Larrimore sparked seven straight goals as the game ended 12-9.

Donohoe recorded eight saves for MU and Leder tallied nine for Mount.  The blue and white outshot the Mountaineers 25-22 in the victory.

“I thought we settled in offensively and got a lot of great looks,” Head Coach Denise Wescott said. “We did a lot of good things, I thought Kaleigh played really well. When they slid she found the open player for us and if they weren’t tight enough she slipped through and got some shots off.  At the end, Katie made enough saves for us and also ran the clock off for us, and I think she loves being under pressure; she seems to step up to the plate and make big plays when we need her too.”

The Hawks defeated Bryant on Sunday 9-7 to earn the NEC crown.

Campasano led the way with four goals and she was named to the All-Tournament team.

Gibbons, sophomore defender Gracie Williams and Pierce were also selected to the All-Tournament Team. 

The crowd was restless as supporters for both sides cheered their teams on in this back-and-forth exciting game.

MU earns one of 13 automatic bids into the Division I women’s lacrosse championship.  The 26 teams will be announced May 5 with first round play scheduled to begin May 10-12.

Wescott explained what the NEC title means, “This year was a more exciting victory for us because we’ve been looking at it since the last day we walked off the field as NEC Champions. We’ve been working at it for a long time. It was a fun win. More than anything, we won it because we played well together. We had so many players who made plays for us today. It takes a whole team to win a championship.”

The Hawks started off with a goal as Gibbons fed Campasano just 41 seconds into the game.  Bryant’s Lisa Vendel tied the game up two minutes later as both teams fought back and forth all game long.

MU received back to back goals from Pierce and Campasano to push their lead to 3-1.  Lauren Descalzo scored for the Bulldogs and cut the Hawks lead to one.  Campasano scored her third and fourth goals of the afternoon as she increased the lead to 5-2 with 8:16 to play in the first frame.

Descalzo and Vendel combined for a pair of goals to cut the lead to 5-4 going into halftime.

Bryant came out and tied the game less than a minute into the second half. Barbieri scored and gave the Hawks the lead again with 13:31 left to play.  Then Pierce scored on a rocket shot off of a pass from Gibbons in which she called the “Hail Marial” due to the fact that she lobbed a pass from the left side of the crease over the 8 meter mark, to the right side of the crease where it landed perfectly into Pierce’s stick. 

Bulldogs’ Kimberley Sniffen cut the lead back to one less than a minute later.  Pierce answered back again with an unassisted goal with 10:06 left to play. Dean added another goal as she pushed the Hawks lead to 9-6.

Sniffen scored off a pass from Descalzo with 4:27 remaining in the game. Donohoe stopped a free position shot with 1:43 left and iced the game.

The win marked MU’s twelfth straight victory, setting a new Hawks’ record.  The blue and white have now won the NEC title five times: 2001, 2006, 2007, 2012 and 2013.

PHOTO COURTESY of MU Photography