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Steven Hemphill | | May 18, 2015

‘A great day’

2015 DII Women's Lacrosse Championship: Finals Recap

SALEM, Va. -- When looking for similarities between the women’s lacrosse programs at Adelphi University and Lock Haven, they share what’s most important -- each wins games in bunches.

The paths that the Panthers and Bald Eagle take to that goal were quite different, which might have given Adelphi the slight edge it needed to seize a 5-4 overtime win in Sunday’s NCAA Division II championship game on Sunday at Kerr Stadium on the campus of Roanoke College.

Adelphi got the lone overtime score on a goal by Felicia Mills with 11 seconds to go in the first extra period. Lock Haven had very little possession time in OT, and managed to get off just one shot.

It was the second time in as many years that the Panthers (21-1) and Bald Eagles (20-1) met up to determine who is champion. Just like last year’s 7-5 final won by Adelphi, the defenses and goaltenders were superb. No surprise there.

But the defensive approaches were quite different. When Adelphi had the ball, Lock Haven’s defense had a way of forcing the Panthers into positions allowing for only low-quality shots, and then clearing the ball from the zone. In the first half, that approach led to Adelphi never really finding any kind of offensive rhythm.

“I’m really proud of our fight, our composure, our clean and safe play, that we encouraged all season long and that we succeeded at that,” Lock Haven coach Kristen Selvage said.

Adelphi’s approach was much more aggressive, which led to what seemed to be constant referee whistles in the Panthers’ zone.

Adelphi was called for 24 first-half fouls, leading to double-digit free-position re-starts. That led to constant pressure on Panthers keeper Taylor Hayes.

“We’re always very aggressive, we always get a lot of fouls,” senior Lauren Janelli said. “But what we had the last two games [32 in the semifinals against Le Moyne and 35 versus Lock Haven] were more than usual. We’re always aggressive, we can’t help that, but we tried not to swing [our sticks] as much, but we swung a little too much. … But I’d rather people be aggressive than timid.”

When her defense went too far, Hayes was up to the challenge. Lock Haven did not score from the free position in the first half, and scored from there just once in the second half.

“We work a lot on those in practice -- this year, especially,” said Hayes, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. “It was a lot of focus and a lot of hard work just to get there. Those were kind of game-changers. When you make a save off of [free-position shot], you hope it gets everyone going. It was important to save them.”

The other significant philosophy difference was how each team chose to approach the overtime. In this case, Lock Haven was the aggressor.

“Some teams strategize to wait until there’s 30 seconds left [in the three-minute] period, and then shoot the ball,” Selvage said. “We don’t strategize like that.

“… I said I don’t believe [in that trend]. I told them I think we should go out there and get a goal -- strike first -- get the ball back, and get a goal again. That was our plan -- we all agreed. Get the goal when you can, why wait?”

Adelphi, which has one of the nation’s best draw-possessors in Mills, got control of the first draw and then waited.

Adelphi coach Pat McCabe said the plan once the Panthers got the ball was to create an open shot for the team’s leading scorer, Alexa Froccaro, and that’s what they spent most of the period working to find.

“[Lock Haven] was gearing up to stop that,” McCabe said. “But it was really one of the few times they were able to swing the ball and change sides.”

When they did change sides, it eventually led to Mills getting open, and scoring on her first shot attempt of the day. She admitted that she was so abrupt with taking shot because she thought she right up against the end of the overtime. She actually took the shot with 11 seconds to play.

“I literally caught the ball and shot it thinking that was our last [seconds],” Mills said.

Mills got control of the ball again to start the second overtime, but Lock Haven forced a turnover and had a chance to tie the score. Its only shot down the stretch was off the mark.

“It wasn’t our greatest day,” said McCabe, whose team won Adelphi’s seventh national title in his first year in charge of the team. “But it was still a great day.”