by Tom Utescher
Back on March 20, the Chestnut Hill College women’s lacrosse team was forced into the role of visiting victim, falling 14-8 in the home opener for defending Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference champion Georgian Court University.
For a time last Saturday, it looked like the host CHC Griffins might enjoy some payback as they took a 6-3 lead over the Lions midway through the first half of the CACC rematch. But while the rain that had been forecast for late afternoon held off, the Griffins could not hold off the attackers from their Lakewood, NJ opponent. Georgian Court seized the lead for good with a 7-0 streak that netted a 10-6 halftime lead, and the Lions went on to win, 20-16.
A little over 10 minutes into the second half, Chestnut Hill was within one goal of the leaders at 12-13, but the Lions were able to come up with goals when they needed them, improving to 9-3 in conference play and 10-6 overall. Sophomore Molly McCourt led the victors with six goals, and freshman goalie Amanda Cathcart went the distance with 10 saves.
Although CHC got six goals apiece from senior Kelly McKay (one assist) and junior Nicole Covella, along with a game-high 14 saves from junior goalie Jenn Delahanty, the Griffins slipped to 2-12 overall and 2-9 in the CACC.
“We had a letdown at the end of the first half, but overall I thought we played well today,” said Chestnut Hill’s second-year head coach, Katie Lee. “Earlier in the year we were hurting because we had some key players out due to injury. We’ve got them back now and it’s helped the confidence of the whole team. Still, we weren’t able to start out the way we wanted to, so emotionally it’s been a rough season for us.”
In the first three-and-a-half minutes of Saturday’s contest, Covella and McKay gave the Griffins a 2-0 lead, and after the Lions came back for a tie, Covella completed a hat trick and McKay shot her second goal, moving the hosts ahead 5-2 with 16:45 remaining in the first half.
The visitors scored a third goal, then the Griffins went up by three once more on a free-position shot by junior Brianne Timony. Georgian Court regrouped and drove hard to the cage the rest of the half, netting seven straight goals in the last 9:17 for a four-point halftime cushion.
Besides McKay and Covella, Chestnut Hill had only one other multiple-goal scorer (junior Christina Squillante, with two). The Lions, on the other hand, had six players with two or more goals, which made them a little tougher to defend. Georgian Court had some solid stretches on defense, and several times in the second half CHC enjoyed fairly long possessions with several shots, but came away empty.
Covella captured the second-half draw and Squillante scored off a rebound in the opening minute of the new period. A little later the Griffins pulled within two points of the Lions, but with nine minutes elapsed it was back to a four-point spread at 13-9.
In a 30-second span, Covella converted off a free position and McKay came around the crease on the left side to score. Before another minute went by, junior Erica Eaby passed the ball from outside the arc to Squillante a few feet from the crease, setting up a goal that made it 13-12 with 19:31 remaining.
Georgian Court made CHC pay for a yellow card with a woman-up goal, and after the Griffins’ Delahanty stopped back-to-back shots by the visitors, the Lions succeeded on their next attempt for a 15-12 tally. The hosts had the gap back down to two points when McKay drove in from a free position, then the Lions conjured up a burst of offense similar to their spurt in the later stages of the first half.
The Jersey girls deposited five goals in four-and-a-half minutes, and with the count now 20-13, CHC pulled Delahanty and sent sophomore Jessica Pennell (one save) into the cage. McKay, Covella, and junior Lindsay Alexander each scored for Chestnut Hill during the last 93 seconds to reduce the margin before the final horn.
Speaking of senior McKay in her next-to-last home game, Coach Lee said “This may have been the best game I’ve seen her play. She’s improved so much over her four years; she’s one of our girls who didn’t learn to play until freshman year at Chestnut Hill.”
With postseason play not in the cards this time around, the Griffins can soon turn their thoughts to the year ahead. Lee says there will be plenty of off-season conditioning work.
“We’re in good shape right now, but we could be in better shape,” she observed. “There’s also going to be just lots and lots of stickwork. We should have more players next season, so we’ll be able to have real scrimmages in practice, instead of just going seven-on-seven like we’ve had to do this year.”