May 18, 2014

Defensive Gem Hands Adelphi Sixth NCAA D2 Crown

By Steve Hemphill | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | May Madness Home


In-Game Blog Replay

 

Adelphi had a tough time scoring against Lock Haven, but dug down to earn the victory. (Keith Lucas)

Adelphi celebrates its sixth NCAA title and first since 2011 after defeating Lock Haven 7-5 Sunday at Roanoke. (Keith Lucas)

Photo Gallery from Adelphi's 7-5 Win

SALEM, Va. – Fireworks shot off just outside of Kerr Stadium once the final horn sounded in Sunday's NCAA Division II women's lacrosse national championship game.

That's when Adelphi University could finally breathe a sigh of relief and start celebrating its return to the top of the heap. The Panthers never trailed, but Lock Haven kept the score close enough to keep the nation's top-ranked team on its toes right down to the final seconds.

Adelphi had its lowest-scoring day of the year offensively, but that was tempered with a great defensive effort in a 7-5 win over the Eagles. The victory capped a 22-0 season for the Panthers, and gave the school its sixth D-II title since 2004 and the first since Adelphi won the last of three straight championships in 2011.

For those familiar with the Panthers, that final score probably looks a bit odd. No team had held Adelphi to less than 10 goals all season. Sunday's game was just the second time all year that a team lost to the Panthers by as little as two goals -- back in early March, Lindenwood (the team Lock Haven beat in overtime a day earlier to reach the final) came up two-goals short as well.

Lock Haven's defense gets much of the credit for keeping the contest as close as it was. The Panthers had some great moments offensively on Sunday, but the Eagles never allowed Adelphi to get comfortable or into any kind of smooth offensive flow.

"We had to dig down deep," Adelphi senior attacker Devan Crimi said. . "This team has heart, and I think that was shown today."

There was plenty of heart shown all-around.

Crimi, a senior who was part of the last Panthers title team, did her part by scoring on a free position shot with 13:41 to play to put Adelphi in the lead for good. Before her score, Lock Haven had turned what had been a 3-0 lead for the Panthers early in the second half into a 4-4 game by midpoint.

Crimi's score was followed by and impressive unassisted goal by the tournament's most outstanding player Alexa Froccaro that made the score 6-4. And later, after Lock Haven had again moved to within a goal, Froccaro was in the spotlight again, thanks her pass to Rachel Aitkens that produce the final goal of the game with 4:23 to play.

"At our school, all you ever hear about [playing for a championship] from the time you get here," Froccaro said. "So really, it was an unreal feeling to be on the field in this kind of stadium."

On Lock Haven's side, senior Chelsea Borrino was doing everything she could in attempt to take a championship trophy back to her school in the last game of her career. She had three assists a day after getting five in the Eagles' overtime semifinal win over Lindenwood.

And a team doesn't hold Adelphi to two goals unless they have a goalkeeper who's dialed in.

Keeper Chrissy Baffuto made five first-half saves – several of those on one-on-one situations – to keep the game close as Lock Haven's offense looked for a way to break through against Adelphi's offense.

"In the first half, you saw us a little game-shy on offense -- a little bit stunned," Lock Haven coach Kristen Selvage said. "We had four players who were actively trying to get things done on offense, and three players that were a little bit frozen. We talked to them in the second half and got them moving."

Rachel Ward, who had four goals the day before, was the player who finally found a way to beat Adlephi's offense a score with 23:37 to play. She finished with two of her team's five goals, both of them came during a 7-minute span where the Eagles scored four of the five goals and tied the score at 4-4.

Once again, the Eagles – who in Selvage's opinion were in a salvage-the-season mode ever since starting the year with a 2-2 record – had come back from a difficult situation.

"They have been the most cohesive team that I have ever coached," Selvage said. . I said to them before the game that we could win it all or lose it all, but we've already won because we have each other.

"They fought for everything, but some things didn't flip in our direction today."

Winning team head coach Rob Grella knows all about close game. In his first two seasons as head coach, the Panthers made the tournament, but were eliminated both times in close losses to Long Island neighbor LIU-Post.

"Yeah, I guess I had a little bit of a flashback," he said. "But I know what this team can do."

Grella has spent the last three years building up a squad that had just 11 players when he as first named coach in early August of 2012. He traveled up and down the East Coast recruiting, signing players in Maryland, New Jersey, as well as Long Island.

"But I expect that we will be even more competitive in recruiting now," Grella said. "When you went something like this, people notice."


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