by Tom Utescher
Trailing by four goals in the middle of the second period last Thursday evening, the women of Chestnut Hill College made up half the difference, but could not come all the way back in the final home game of their 2014 lacrosse season.
The visiting Wildcats of Wilmington University, who led the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference contest by a 6-4 count at halftime, took away a 9-7 victory. They improved to 6-4 in conference play while leveling off their overall record at 7-7.
A young team to begin with, Chestnut Hill is playing out the final acts of the season without two players who normally fill starting roles, including key midfield connector Emorie Keimig, a sophomore center. The Griffins’ record of 3-13 (3-7 CACC) includes five losses by margins of three goals or less.
“We need to work on being able to produce under pressure,” said second-year head coach Chelsea Rosiek, “but at the same time, it’s exciting to be so close with six freshmen starting, because it can only get better. The ‘fight’ is there, and that’s the most important thing, and overall this is valuable experience for a young team.”
The Griffins celebrated Senior Night last Thursday in downright cold conditions usually associated with the earliest games of the season. When play got underway, the initial negative impression of a Wilmington goal just 22 seconds into the match was quickly erased when one of CHC’s seniors, Kelly Campbell, answered for the home team 17 seconds later.
Wilmington soon netted another goal, and then the Wildcats converted off of a free position six minutes into the game to go up 3-1. Two of Chestnut Hill’s rookies, Alicia Herbert and Lea Sanders, brought the Griffins back even at 3-3 with 16:22 remaining in the first half.
That score stuck on the board for almost five minutes, then the visitors forged ahead for good with a pair of markers in a two-minute span.
Off the draw following Wilmington’s fifth goal, CHC went right down the field and Sanders scored off an assist from freshman classmate Jackie O’Leary. However, the Griffins would go into halftime down 6-4, as the Wildcats once again cashed in on a free-position opportunity.
After the visitors opened the second-half scoring, it was Chestnut Hill that took advantage of a free-po on the arc, with Herbert putting the ball away to trim the lead back to two goals, 7-5.
Near the end of the first 10 minutes of the period, a Wilmington attacker came from behind the cage to hit the top corner on the opposite side, then the gap widened to four points when Wilmington deposited its ninth goal with 11:12 left to play.
It would’ve been worse for the Griffins if not for some impressive stops made by their freshman goaltender, Katie Joe Lang. Displaying quick reflexes to foil a number of close-range, quick-stick shots, she finished the night with 12 saves. Her opposite number, Wilmington’s Corinne Dries, recorded four saves in the contest.
After the visitors went up 9-5, CHC held the line on defense for the duration, but the Griffins remained four goals behind for seven minutes. With a Wilmington foul that had Dries caught out of the cage, Campbell scored for the hosts with 3:59 remaining. At 2:48, the Griffins pulled within two points of the leaders, 9-7, as Herbert drove into the arc from the left, looped around to shed a defender, and scored.
That was as close as CHC could get, with a yellow card hindering their efforts in the final minutes. Herbert had a game-high three goals, and Campbell put in a pair. A well-balanced Wilmington attack featured two goals from Penelope Fantis, and one each from seven other players.
“We’ve had great leadership from our seniors,” CHC’s Rosiek said afterwards, “and we also can look forward to the next three years with this great group of freshmen.”