Thursday, May 3, 2012

Women's lacrosse beats UMBC to advance to Saturday's title game

Final Stats
BOSTON - The Stony Brook women's lacrosse team advanced to its first-ever America East Championship final after defeating UMBC in the semifinals, 9-7, Thursday afternoon at Nickerson Field on the campus of Boston University. Freshman Michelle Rubino (East Setauket, N.Y.) led the Seawolves with three goals, and junior Claire Petersen (Wantagh, N.Y.) posted five points on one goal and four assists.

The win sets up a final against defending champion Albany this Saturday at Nickerson Field at 12 p.m. Earlier in the day, the Great Danes upset top-seed Boston University. The game will be televised live on ESPN3. The Seawolves are seeking their first-ever conference championship and NCAA Tournament bid.

Stony Brook earned its program-record 14th win of the year, surpassing the previous record set by the 2007 team. It also gives Stony Brook a 10-win improvement from last season as the Seawolves continue to boast the nation's best turnaround from 2011. UMBC concludes its season at 8-9.

In addition to Rubino and Petersen scoring goals, freshman Amber Kupres (Ronkonkoma, N.Y.) and sophomore Tara Gerstacker (Manorville, N.Y.) scored twice and sophomore Emily Mercier (Rocky Point, N.Y.) scored once. Gerstacker, who had appeared in only one game during the regular season, scored the game-winning goal in the second half.

"It was a hard battle, a typical post season game filled with runs and physicality," head coach Joe Spallina said. "We are glad we were able to win and advance to one more game. The nice thing about today is that we got goals from our role players, and the key to any championship run is getting production from our role players. We now have a day and a half to get ready for the defending champions and we're honored to play them for the right to reach the NCAA Tournament."

Much like the first meeting this season when Stony Brook led 4-3 at halftime, the match was a defensive duel early on. The Seawolves took a 2-0 lead in the first seven minutes on goals by Mercier and Kupres. It took nearly 13 minutes for UMBC to get on the scoreboard as Alicia Krause connected on a free position attempt to make it 2-1. UMBC's Emily Coady scored at 13:51 to make it 2-2.

Petersen put the Seawolves up 3-2 with 10:54 to go in the first half, sparking a 4-0 run that included back-to-back goals from Rubino. Stony Brook held the Retrievers scoreless for nearly 13 minutes due to defense. Junior goalkeeper Hannah Perruccio (Rochester, N.Y.) stopped a Kristen Bilney shot that led to an open clear attempt and eventually a Rubino goal. SBU also caused two turnovers in the span to stop UMBC's offensive momentum.

The Retrievers finally woke up in the final minute as Lindsay Cox posted back-to-back goals in a 35-second span to send UMBC into halftime trailing 6-4.

The start of the second half was sloppy and featured four turnovers and two yellow cards. Both yellow cards were on SBU players, but the Seawolves killed off the extra-man opportunity, and then Gerstacker capitalized on a feed from Petersen to put the Seawolves up 7-4.

UMBC stayed within striking distance by scoring with 15:21 left in the game, but the Seawolves immediately responded as Rubino won the ensuing draw and Petersen again fed Gerstacker for a wide-open goal to make it 8-5.

Late in the game, it was 8-6 and the SBU defense came up strong again as Perruccio stopped Shannon Harkey's free position attempt with 7:55 left to play. Eventually, Bilney scored to get UMBC within one, 8-7, with 4:54 on the clock.

UMBC won the ensuing draw, but Mercier forced a turnover, one of nine SBU caused turnovers, and the Seawolves made pass after pass until they got UMBC goalkeeper Anna Barnett out of position, and Rubino scored to add insurance and make it 9-7.

Perruccio made two more saves in the final minutes as the defense held on for the victory. She made six saves in total to improve to 6-3 as a goalie this year.

On defense, Kupres led all Seawolves with four caused turnovers and five ground balls. Rubino controlled five draws.