LHU drops PSAC women’s lax title game

LOCK HAVEN – Saturday afternoon in the title game of the PSAC Lacrosse Championships, Lock Haven head coach Kristen Selvage and her crew were hoping that history would repeat itself.

In Friday’s semifinal matchup with Bloomsburg, the Lady Eagles overcame a large early deficit to post a win over the Huskies for the right to battle West Chester for the league crown.

Although they rode a near-miracle finish to a win 24 hours earlier, it wasn’t to be in the title game as the Lady Eagles fought, scratched and battled, but just couldn’t climb the final hill in an 8-7 loss to the Rams at Charlotte Smith Field.

“They got on us early and when they built up a lead, they stalled the ball on us,” said Selvage. “It has always been my saying that if you have two minutes left on the clock you’ll probably score another goal, but unfortunately for us, not today.”

West Chester jumped all over LHU from the opening draw as the Lady Rams scored the game’s first goal 57 seconds into the contest and proceeded to stretch their advantage to 5-2 at halftime by outscoring the Lady Eagles 4-2 during the final 25 minutes of the opening period.

Although West Chester scored the four goals down the stretch, LHU had numerous chances to do the same, but couldn’t penetrate the Rams defense to put the ball into the net.

“I think we played a little bit with nerves,” said Selvage about her team going through the dry spell. “We should have come out with confidence from the start and we have to learn to take the reins in our hands right from the beginning instead of allowing the other team to dictate what we are going to do.”

Hoping to get off to a better start in the second half, that didn’t happen either for LHU as West Chester scored another early goal only 71 seconds into the period.

The two teams traded scores during the next dozen minutes for a 7-3 West Chester advantage, but from that point on that is when things got interesting as the Lady Eagles trailed 8-7 with 22 seconds left on the clock. Leading the LHU surge was Jessica Pandolf who scored all of her three goals in a span of 14 minutes.

During that time, the LHU defense stood tall as it kept West Chester under control largely due to the efforts of Lindsay Walbrandt and Christina Hawkins with three forced turnovers each. Complementing the defensive efforts of Walbrandt and Hawkins was LHU keeper Chrissy Baffuto with four saves.

Working the ball up field with less than a minute remaining, LHU had one good last gasp opportunity to tie the game and send it to overtime, but a false start penalty turned the ball over as the clock ran out.

“With five seconds on the clock, we miss on a free position and that is huge,” Selvage pointed out. “We have 10 sophomores and eight freshmen on this team and they are young so I am not worried about what we can do in the future. We simply have to educate them a little better so they can make better decisions in those moments.”

The quick scores in each of the halves were big for the Rams, but one factor that might have been even bigger was the way the big lead allowed them to control the tempo of the game.

“They started stalling the ball immediately in the second half with the lead they had,” said Selvage. “That is not the kind of game I like to play, but we were forced to play it. Fortunately we have a defense that is ready for those types of things and we also realized that we might have to give up a few goals to get the ball back if that is what it would take.”

Although she said her team was expecting it, facing the stalling tactics of your opponent can frustrate the athletes.

“It is really frustrating,” said Selvage. “Probably the opposing coach went into this game thinking that they had to win it regardless of what the score was because this was their only shot at getting into the NCAA tournament. I am not sure that this win for them will get them in, but she did the right thing by getting the lead and then holding on to it.”

The Lady Eagles will now have to wait until tonight to see if they are selected for the NCAA tournament. The NCAA Division II selection show will be held at 8 p.m. today with the top three teams in both the North and South regions advancing to the next level. Going into the week, LHU was ranked third in the NCAA-II South Region poll.