LIU Post Survives, Advances to Division II Women's Final
Jackie Sileo celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal with 5.3 seconds remaining in LIU Post's 7-6 NCAA semifinal victory Saturday over Adelphi.
© Scott McCall
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Jackie Sileo got her hands free for a millisecond, and that's all it took for the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division II women's lacrosse history to send LIU Post back to the championship game.
Sileo broke a furious game-long faceguard by Adelphi's Camille Rosellini to score the game-winning goal with 5.3 seconds remaining in the Pioneers' 7-6 victory Saturday at Stevenson University. LIU Post, the defending NCAA champion, will meet Limestone in Sunday's final (3 p.m. Eastern).
Sileo shot wide seconds earlier, but Morgan Chiarenza secured the ball out of bounds and quickly fed it back to her for the goal.
"I saw the defender in front of me get out of the way, and my defender was on my back. We do that play countless times -- posting up on the crease," Sileo said. "I knew Morgan was going to get it to me. It was just a matter of putting it in the back of the net."
The defender on Sileo's back was Rosellini, who blanketed Sileo through picks, crease cuts, dummy dodges and off-ball banter for the entire game. Although Sileo finished with eight shots, most of them came under pressure. She had not scored since converting a free position early in the first half.
"The first thing we wanted to do was shut down Jackie Sileo. We pretty much did that until the last five seconds," Adelphi coach Rob Grella said.
"She just got in front," an exhausted Rosellini said. "I can't think about it now."
LIU Post (19-0) coughed up a 5-2 lead in the second half and trailed 6-5 with less than two minutes remaining before Adelphi's Danielle Jaycox was called for an illegal cradle as she tried to evade multiple Pioneers defenders.
"I don't know what they wanted me to do when I had girls checking me from behind and on the restraining line," Jaycox said afterward at a post-game press conference. "I really wish I didn't do that. We wouldn't be in this position right now."
A wide-open Jenna Pierro converted a feed up top from Katie Rotan to tie the game at 6 with 1:25 remaining.
Kali Maxwell tracked down the ensuing draw, and LIU Post spun the ball around the perimeter before finding Sileo open when it mattered most.
"I just tried to have fun with [the faceguard]. I wasn't going to let it frustrate me or get in my head, because that's exactly what they want. I had fun and just tried to get open by using the crease and tire [Rosellini] out a little bit. Because the first half she seemed to be getting a little winded, and I was fine," Sileo said. "It's funny, almost, that they're right on top of you. Adrenaline got me through the game. I knew that if I just kept working, trying to set picks and roll and use the crease, I was going to get free somehow."
Adelphi (18-3) was gutted two years ago after winning its third straight NCAA championship. Coach Joe Spallina left for Division I Stony Brook and took four high-profile transfers with him. LIU Post eliminated the Panthers in the quarterfinals last year.
Grella, formerly a high school coach in New Jersey, took over the program in July 2011. He took solace in the fact that the Panthers were two minutes away from avenging that loss and returning to the final.
"I don't think everyone truly understands how hard it has been for our program to rebuild after what happened a couple of years ago," Grella said. "We made a name for ourselves again to get us one step closer this year. We're going to continue to work hard and focus on getting to that next level."
In addition to keeping Sileo largely in check, Adelphi held Ashley Olen to just one goal. Olen came into the game ranked second in Division II with 85 goals.
But LIU Post got a strong game from goalkeeper Dominique Mosca (13 saves). The Pioneers appeared ready to pull away when Rotan scored off a feed by Brie-Claire Drost (two goals, one assist) to put the Pioneers up 5-2 with 23:34 remaining.
After an Adelphi timeout, Grella pulled starting goalie Jordan Dempsey and inserted freshman Taylor Hayes, who shut out Le Moyne in the second half last week when the Panthers rallied from a five-goal deficit to advance.
"It's something we've been doing all year. Jordan Dempsey has been our starter, and Taylor Hayes comes in and she cleans up. She's done an amazing job," Grella said. "She's maturing into a star."
Hayes did her part, making four second-half saves as Adelphi chipped away at the lead.
Devan Crimi ducked underneath her defender and scored to pull the Panthers within two.
Forty-six seconds later, Alexa Froccaro converted a free position to make it 5-4.
Rachel O'Brien scored her second goal of the game on a long-range bouncer that took a low hop on Mosca to tie the game at 5 with 12:49 remaining.
It remained tied as the Panthers milked a long possession of more than five minutes before LIU Post came out of its zone defense to pressure the ball. The move appeared to backfire, as Adelphi's Sara Sangiorgio drew a foul and scored on a free position with 3:48 left to give the Panthers their first lead since early in the first half.
Adelphi won the ensuing draw and took another two-plus minutes off the clock before Jaycox's illegal cradle gave LIU Post the ball with 1:45 left -- just enough time for an amazing turn of events.
"All we had to do was get the ball," Sileo said, "and I knew we would finish the game strong."