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Brian Falzarano | | May 24, 2014

Emily Mooney's stellar defense play lifts Trinity (Conn.) to title game

  Emily Mooney's defensive play helped Trinity (Conn.) knock off undefeated Cortland.

GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Emily Mooney waited impatiently along the goal line in the final seconds Saturday afternoon, only eight meters of open field turf standing between her and her Trinity College (Conn.) teammates turning back SUNY Cortland in the NCAA Division III Women’s Lacrosse Championship semifinals for a third consecutive season.

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Stats: 2014 Division II Tournament
And then the whistle blew. Cortland All-American and potential national player of the year Erica Geremia sprinted off the eight-meter line and fired hard, low, and left. Quickly and seemingly effortlessly, Mooney dashed to her right, securing the ball in her wicket with 36 seconds remaining.

Ultimately, Mooney’s presence of mind in the biggest moment of her collegiate career ended No. 1 Cortland’s hopes of an undefeated and national championship season with an 8-7 triumph that more or less repeated the same storyline the previous two seasons when the third-ranked Bantams turned back the Red Dragon

“KP [nickname of coach Kate Livesay] has talked being in the zone,” Mooney, a sophomore, said. “I think in times like that, that was me playing outside of myself. It wasn’t about me it was about helping us move on.

“I think i found that zone [Saturday].”

As Trinity did in the national semifinals of 2012 and '13, the Bantams (19-2) stymied a prolific Cortland (22-1) attack. Only this time was different. This time, the Bantams held the nation’s top scoring team (16.1 gpg) scoreless for 29:52 - easily the longest drought of what had otherwise been an undeniably dominant run for the Red Dragons to the doorstep of the national-championship game.

For as much as Cortland coach Kathy Taylor complimented Trinity’s defense for “taking us out of our comfort zone” and forcing several second-half turnovers inside of eight meters, Mooney provided a nearly impenetrable final line of defense across the final 35 minutes. Although the last of her five saves in the second stanza proved the most important, her other three helped the Bantams rebound after trailing 5-4 at intermission.

Then again, this is what Mooney has delivered in big moments since arriving at Trinity. In this spot last season as a rookie, after leading the New England Small College Athletic Conference in goals against average, she stopped eight Cortland shots to help the Bantams advance to the national title game.

“We are all so confident in her because of her voice,” senior defender and All-American Lyndsey Shepard said. “She’s really the rock of our defense. Those saves that she comes up with really set the tone for our defense and fuel us going forward to the other end of the field.”

Said Livesay with a smile: “Yeah, we’re confident in our goalie.”

Credit Cortland for ensuring the final minutes would be full of white-knuckle moments. Especially with 36 seconds left when a Trinity defender was whistled after fouling Geremia.

“I knew I had to make it to tie the game,” said Geremia, who finished with a goal and three assists. “She made a really great save on it and I give her credit for that.”

Added Clark: “She came up big for them at the end. … (Geremia’s) on the eight-meter, potentially the player of the year, has the ball in her stick - what more could you want as a coach? Their goalie was hot.”

With one big save from their sophomore goalkeeper, the Bantams moved one step closer to their second national championship in three seasons.

“I loved seeing that wind up on the eight meter. I love cheering for her,” said senior attacker Shea Kusiak, who contributed two goals and an assists including a free-position shot that put Trinity ahead to stay with 15:06 remaining. “I just know that she’s the one of anyone who’s going to make that save.”