SATURDAY, APRIL 30, 2011
Women’s lacrosse advances to first-ever NLC championship game
Most coaches fall back on the cliché of top players needing to perform at their best during the most important games. Freshman Morgan Derner has embodied that adage, scoring five goals and tallying seven points to lead the JU women’s lacrosse team to a 19-7 victory over Davidson in the semifinals of the National Lacrosse Conference Tournament on Saturday at historic Richardson Stadium in Davidson, N.C.
The top-seeded Dolphins made its own history at the 88-year-old stadium, advancing to the NLC championship game for the first time in just the second year of the team’s existence.
JU (14-4) also extended its program-record winning streak to 10 games in defeating fourth-seeded Davidson (6-12). The Dolphins will face the winner of High Point vs. Longwood game in the finals on Sunday at 1 p.m.
“We’re so excited,” JU head coach Mindy McCord said. “This is what our goal has been all year and we’re hoping to come home with a title.”
Derner scored three goals and added two assists in the opening half alone and Nikki Erdely tied a career high with four goals in recording her third career hat trick. Amanda Hurley, Sarah Michel, Kayleigh Hynes and Kaitlin Stewart each scored twice to complete the route.
Derner tallied her 10th hat trick of the season and second in two days. The attacker now has 33 goals in her last eight games played and has a team-leading 49 goals overall. She already is the first 40-goal scorer in team history and has a chance to crack the 50-goal mark tomorrow.
“Morgan’s speed is superior and her confidence is what puts her in situations to be successful,” McCord said.
JU went on a 12-0 run that spanned 31:46 as the Dolphins built a 41-19 edge in shots and had 12 fewer turnovers overall. Davidson was held without a goal for the final 20:17 of the opening half and didn’t dent the scoreboard again until Erin Doherty’s second goal at 18:31 of the second half.
Doherty and Ann Fucigna scored three goals for Davidson and goalie Jessica Melby posted – saves. But the Wildcats lost for the second time this season to the Dolphins after JU won, 13-9, in Jacksonville on March 27.
Derner continued to excel in giving JU momentum off the opening draw control. In the quarterfinal win over Howard, the attacker scored 11 seconds in. Against Davidson, Derner followed suit with a free-position goal just 15 seconds in. She now has nine goals and 11 points in NLC Tournament play.
But Davidson responded with three straight goals capped by Erin Doherty’s shot near the left post off Jenna Mugele’s behind-the-cage centering pass for a 3-2 Wildcats lead almost 10 minutes into the contest.
That marked the first time JU trailed in the tournament and the first time in five games it faced a deficit at any point (dating back to April 3 versus Longwood). But the Dolphins showed resiliency, scoring eight unanswered goals en route to a 10-3 halftime lead.
“We just needed to settle into our game,” McCord said. “We have a lot of young players, so it’s just about managing expectations and helping them stay focused on our game plan. Once we settled in, we just became more relaxed and they started playing their system and executing.”
JU used an aggressive defense to bounce back from the early hit. Davidson committed 14 turnovers in the opening half alone with Ellyn Spangenberg causing three turnovers through just the opening 30 minutes.
The Dolphins scored seven goals in the final nine minutes of first half. Erdely scored two goals in the last 10.8 seconds with both goals coming off Derner passes. Erdely first scored near the left post and fired in another shot a fraction of a second before the buzzer sounded for her third goal of the contest, giving her a hat trick at the midway point.
Nine Dolphins finished with points. Defenders Rachel Forman and Rachel Hannon both caused two turnovers and Stewart added three caused turnovers in support of goalie Karli Tobin, who made five saves.
JU has already beaten both of its potential championship opponents. The Dolphins defeated second-seeded High Point, 17-10, on March 25 at home and also beat No. 3 Longwood, 18-10, in Jacksonville on April 3.
- By Brian Bohl