SALEM, Va. -- Maybe unexpected delays can mess with the heads of some athletes.
Jessica Pandolf does not seem to be in that category.
When Lock Haven’s NCAA Division II women’s lacrosse semifinal against Lindenwood was put on hold for about 45 minutes due to lightning flashes around Kerr Stadium on the campus Roanoke College, the Eagles senior patiently waited to pounce.
Once play was allowed to begin, it took Pandolf less than eight minutes to make her mark with a hat-trick of goals. She finished with five, along with three assists in Lock Haven’s 11-5 win against the Lions, giving the Eagles (20-0) a pair of wins against the Lions (19-2) both in the 2015 season and in the past two national semifinals.“In the past, we’ve actually had situations where teams showed up late, and we ended up playing one of the best games of the year,” Pandolf said. “Adversity doesn’t really affect us at all. We really came out strong.”
The win puts Lock Haven, last year’s national runner-up, into Saturday’s national championship game against Adelphi, which won the championship by a narrow score of 7-5. It topped off what was a great day for the Bald Eagles.
In addition to returning to the championship game, Lock Haven coach Kristen Selvage earned win No. 200 at her alma mater -- and the victory came in front of impressive number of Bald Eagles fans and alumni who made the trip to Southwest Virginia to cheer the team on.
“It’s twice as special that it is at my alma mater, and that an alum [2012 Lock Haven graduate Katie McConnell is an assistant] is doing it with me,” Selvage said. "Being at your alma mater is the most special thing on the planet. Then feeling that love and seeing your alums come back like they did today … was a special feeling.”
The Bald Eagles advanced because of their balance on offense and defense. While Pandolf was sparking the Lock Haven attack, the defense stifled a Lindenwood offense that had been held to less than 10 goals only twice before in 2015.
Part of the reason was what the Bald Eagles did on the draw -- they won 12 of the 18 contested. This was a big jump from when the two teams played back in early April, and Lock Haven won 8-5.
“We made adjustments on the draw and made sure we were hungry to win the draw,” Selvage said. “In the second half, we started to win the draw quite a bit, and that gave us a lot of confidence.”
While Lock Haven never trailed, there were times when Lindenwood started to make moves that resembled last year’s semifinal, when the Lions rallied to force overtime, only to lose in extra time.
Lindenwood trailed by four goals midway through the first half, but cut the deficit to two by halftime. In the second half, after Lock Haven opened up with three consecutive goals in the first 10 minutes, the Lions came back with three goals in a row of their own.
“We started to move the ball better on offense,” attacker Melissa Menchella said. “At halftime, we talked the about the things that weren’t working and saw that our movement was very good. So then we started to move better, and that’s when we got some goals.”
Lindenwood continued to attack the Lock Haven goal, taking 26 shots in the game. But the Lock Haven defense made sure that most of those shots had low probability of going into the net.
“We came in here as the highest-scoring offense in the country, and this is the best defense we’ve seen all year,” Lindenwood coach Jack Cribbin said. “They took us out of our rhythm early in the game, which is what they did the last time we played them.
“We came into this game with a little different game plan in mind, and they took us out of it.”