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Steve Hemphill | | May 17, 2014

Hemphill: Lock Haven perfects win or go home

  Chelsea Borrino set up Lock Haven's game-winning score.

SALEM, Va. – Kristen Selvage was not exactly pleased with how things stood as the clock continued to run, and Lindenwood continued to play keep away from her Lock Haven team on Saturday in the NCAA Division II national semifinals.

Then again, this was not an unusual situation for her either. Frankly, the Eagles’ head coach had felt like her team had been in this situation for the better part of the past two months. To get to this point, Lock Haven has been in close games that were more or less must-win situations almost every time it set foot on a lacrosse field since a two-game losing streak early in the season.

So when the Eagles, trailing 9-8 at the time, first managed to force a Lindenwood turnover with less than two minutes to play (after the Lions had held onto the ball for about four minutes), both Selvage and her team were familiar with where they stood.

“It's what they had to do all season long,” Selvage said. “We were 2-2 at the beginning of the season, and we never really verbalized it to them, but they knew that had to go undefeated the rest of the season to get to this point, and so it's what we asked of them all season long.”

Once again, that must-win situation was no big deal. The Eagles did get the tying goal when Rachel Ward took a pass from senior Chelsea Borrino as scored with 1:33 to play in the game. That led to overtime, where Borrino then found Kelly Hamilton for the go-ahead goal with 1:49 to play.

“We just needed a big stop on defense,” said Ward, who scored four goals in the semifinals. “We were doing a good job of stopping them and controlling the momentum, so once we got the ball, we knew we could score.”

Lindenwood, which at one point scored seven out of nine goals, did not answer Lock Haven’s goal, so it is the Eagles who will be playing top-ranked Adelphi for the national championship on Sunday afternoon. Lock Haven got there by following that 0-2 run with a 17-0 record.

Still, those early-season losses -- an 11-7 neutral field defeat at the hands of Limestone and an overtime loss at Indiana (Pa.) -- could have led the Eagles to start comparing the results to past seasons. In 2013, the Eagles ended their season with back-to-back one-goal losses, including an 11-10 loss to Rollins in the NCAA quarterfinals.

Instead, the team just made sure it never happened again.

The Eagles credit an overtime 10-8 win against Mercyhurst in early April as the point where they started to believe that they would have the advantage in close games.

“There were some overtime wins we got this season, so we were prepared for this moment,” Selvage said. “I certainly wish we wouldn't have given up that lead, but I like how we responded.”

And while Adelphi, who downed two-time defending national champion LIU Post to earn the other spot in the title game, is going to be a challenging opponent, Lock Haven is battle-tested and ready to take its shot.

The Eagles know how hard it is to get here.

“This is mine and my friend’s [fellow senior Lindsay Walbrandt] last chance to win a championship,” said Borrino, who has already graduated with a criminal justice degree and will begin an internship working as a probation officer in the coming weeks. “It means everything to me. I've never been to a [national semifinals.]  Every year, we do so great. We win [our conference tournament] every year, but we’ve never quite gotten here. So playing in the national championship game means everything to me.”

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