May 23, 2010

By Jeff Seidel
Special to

Gettysburg, Pa. - Adelphi came into this weekend's Final Four with two things on its wish list - some revenge and another championship.

The Panthers checked revenge off their list with their semifinal victory over C.W. Post Saturday night and then took care of winning the NCAA Division II women's lacrosse title on Sunday.

After a bit of a slow start, Adelphi broke the game open with eight consecutive goals to take command en route to a 17-7 victory over West Chester at Gettysburg College.

Adelphi (19-1) became the first Division II team ever to repeat as a national champion. The Panthers now have won four titles since 2004 - and beat West Chester (19-2) in three of those championship games.

But Adelphi coach Joe Spallina said that the Panthers learned something from how they got this title.

Spallina said the team's 21-16 loss to C.W. Post earlier this month that ruined their perfect season shook them. It forced his team to go back and take a look at how it was doing things - and the Panthers realized it was time to emphasize defense.

"We did what we had to do," Spallina said. "We decided we are going to buckle down and play defense."

They did just that. In their first Final Four game, the Panthers wound up meeting rival C.W. Post in the semifinals. It was easy to see how emotional Adelphi was about that contest, and the Panthers exacted some redemption with a 14-9 victory Saturday night.

Tough defense proved to be the key in that victory, a big reason the Panthers went from giving up 21 goals to just nine. They were strong again on defense in the final, holding West Chester without a goal for 24 minutes, 44 seconds while scoring eight in a row of their own to take a 10-2 lead.

And good defense made Adelphi even tougher to beat because the Panthers so desperately craved a second straight national title.

"We wanted this," said midfielder Holly Burke. "This was our goal all season."

The Panthers supported that stingy defense with a powerful and balanced offense. In the championship, Erica DeVito led the way with five goals and one assist. Kaitlyn Carter added five goals while Elizabeth Fey (three goals, one assist), Marissa Mills (three goals) and Claire Peterson (four assists) all pitched in.

Adelphi needed both the offense and defense to play well because it didn't want a repeat performance of what the Golden Rams did in their semifinal victory over Lock Haven.

In that game, West Chester rallied from an 8-3 deficit to shock Lock Haven Saturday in overtime. The Golden Rams pulled out a 9-8 victory, and found themselves in a similar situation in the championship when the Panthers raced to a 7-2 halftime lead.

West Chester did try to rally in the second half, scoring three straight goals in a 2:22 span to cut Adelphi's lead to 11-7 with 14:27 left.

But the Panthers took charge after that. They scored the game's final six goals to lock up that second straight title.

Adelphi goalie Caitlin Fitzpatrick made sure there'd be no comeback. West Chester certainly found plenty of scoring chances, but Fitzpatrick constantly stopped them. She finished with 14 saves.

"She had a fantastic game," said West Chester coach Ginny Martino. "We just couldn't get the ball in the net."

Fitzpatrick made nine of her saves in the first half while Adelphi jumped out to a five-goal lead. That played a big role in West Chester's long dry spell.

Martino will be losing a few key players from this team, and spent several minutes in the post-game press conference praising what they accomplished at the school. This senior class helped the Golden Rams to three title-game appearances, which included a championship in 2008.

West Chester didn't even make the national tournament last year, and this year's team surprised a few people. Lauren Glassey led the Golden Rams with three goals.

"To get to the Final Four [this year] was a phenomenal feat," Martino said. "Disappointed? Yes. But disappointed? No. You never want to get that silver trophy, but for this group, it's gold."

However, the real gold trophy went to an Adelphi team that had their eyes on it for a long time, probably since when they won last year.

But the Panthers got a double treat this weekend. They got to even a score and then come away with another big trophy. That's why the C.W. Post victory was so important -because when Adelphi got that one, there was no way the championship would slip away.

"There was no doubt we were winning today," Fey said.