SALEM, Va. -- For almost a year, Jessica Pandolf has waited for the opportunity to think about what it would be like for her Lock Haven Bald Eagles to have another chance to face defending national champion Adelphi.
The senior attacker finally put her sights back on the Panthers late Saturday afternoon, after Lock Haven had beaten Lindenwood in their Division II national semifinal game.
Now the unbeaten Bald Eagles get a chance to dethrone Adelphi, which had earned its spot in the final earlier in day with a win against Le Moyne. The game will start at 2 p.m. at Kerr Field.“The last time we lost was to Adelphi,” said Pandolf, who scored five goals and added three assists in Lock Haven’s 11-6 semifinal win. “For me, I think everything in my life happens for a reason. And it was so weird how everything laid out this season.”
There seems to be something about NCAA title games resulting in rematches when they’re played in Salem. Nine of the past 10 Division III football national title games -- all played just down the road at Salem Stadium -- pitted Wisconsin-Whitewater and Mount Union. Now, Kerr Stadium on the Roanoke College campus will be the site of another rematch, one that could be very interesting.
It’s not like the Panthers, who will be playing for their seventh national championship on Sunday, have an untouchable aura about them in the eyes of the Bald Eagles.
The 7-5 final score last year was close enough to keep Lock Haven focused on garnering a rematch.
The matchup is again intriguing. The Bald Eagles have gotten to this point with the help of a stingy defense that has allowed more than seven goals just twice on the way to a 20-0 record.
Meanwhile, Lock Haven’s offense has gradually become nearly as dominating. The Eagles have reached double figures in goals in each of their past 10 games.
Lock Haven expects to have another solid defensive game. So the focus in pregame will likely be about the offense.
“The key is us producing on offense quicker than we did last year,” Lock Haven coach Kristen Selvage said. “I think we know how to do that. We figured it out a little too late last year.
“We’re going to get the ball moving. We’re going to have cutters flying everywhere, and we’re going to keep them on their toes.
“And our defense is going to stay the same as it always was. That’s just how it’s going to be.”
Adelphi, which has lost just once in the past two seasons, dealt with some unexpected adversity prior to the start of the school year when the Panthers learned they were going to get a new head coach.
However, first-year coach Pat McCabe has quickly bonded with his team, which has been just about as dominant as the Bald Eagles since being upset back on April 16 by Northeast-10 Conference rival Stone Hill back on April 18. Since then, the Panthers have won six in a row, including Saturday’s 10-5 win against Le Moyne, by an average score of 13-5.
McCabe does not plan to have his team do anything differently than what has gotten them to this point.
“We’ll go back and study what they do,” McCabe said. “But we’re more about we do, and hoping that we can do our thing better than you can do yours. If we do what we like to and do it, we think we’re tough to beat.
“We’re very willing to let it rip, let it all hang out, and may the best team win.”
Among those playing their last game for Adelphi on Sunday will be leading scorer Alexa Froccaro, who scored three times in the Panthers’ win on Saturday.
While last year was a great experience, Froccaro said having a chance to be a senior on a team that repeats as national champions has made this season even more special to her.
“To be here my senior year, I have to say it’s more exciting,” she said. “I was talking to the coaches before the game started, and I told them last year, I didn’t think I realized the importance of this. I was just kind of living in the moment.
“Now, I’m trying to appreciate everything that’s going on the entire weekend because this is the last time I’m going to be doing it.”