ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The No. 15-ranked Wesleyan University women's lacrosse team won a thrilling 13-10 victory over No. 12 Messiah on Saturday in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Division III Championships on the campus of St. John Fisher in Rochester, N.Y.
The win is another historic moment for the Cardinals (11-6) as it marks their first-ever NCAA tournament victory. Weslyan, who is making its second consecutive appearance in the national tournament, will play the host school and No. 18 St. John Fisher in the second round on Sunday at 1 p.m. Messiah, the 2018 Middle Atlantic Conference champions, finish the season with a 15-4 record.
Sophomore Abby Manning led the way for Wesleyan with five points on four goals and one assist, while freshman Rylee White (two goals, one assist), sophomore Julia Gretsky (one goal, two assists) and freshman Sydney Prokupek (three assists) all recorded three-point games.
Leading the way for the Falcons were juniors Courtney Wagner (two goals, one assist) and Annika Johnsen (three goals).
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- It only took the Falcons 26 seconds to find their way onto the scoreboard, as senior Kendra Herbenar found the back of the cage.
- The Cardinals responded with six of the next seven goals, including a pair of 3-0 spurts. Manning put Wesleyan in the lead with back-to-back goals with 26:29 and 21:21 remaining, respectively, in the first half, as the first tally was assisted by Gretsky and the second one was the result of a free-position attempt.
- Thirty-two seconds after Manning's second tally, junior Caitlin Wood made an aggressive move toward goal, and beat Falcons junior goalie Amber Orner, giving the Cardinals a 3-1 advantage.
- With 19:01 showing on the clock, Wagner pulled Messiah to within one on a free-position goal, and then junior Abigail Horst took advantage of a foul by Messiah, and tallied her 35th goal of the season 16 ticks later on a free-position shot.
- Wesleyan developed a three-goal advantage at 5-2 with 16:37 on the clock, as Gretsky made a heads-up cut down the middle of the lane, and was spotted with a perfect pass by Prokupek.
- One minute, two seconds after Gretsky's tally, Manning, who hails from Wilmington, Del., finished off her hat trick by attacking the net aggressively off a free-position attempt, capping the Cardinals' 6-1 spurt, as the team developed a 6-2 lead.
- Messiah stopped the Cardinals' momentum on a rocket from the middle of the attacking zone by junior Mckenna Edwards, directly off a feed by Wagner.
- The two teams went scoreless for over 10 minutes, which featured some highly-entertaining, back-and-forth action. Orner recorded a strong save for Messiah with 7:38 remaining on a low shot by Wood off a free-position opportunity. Then with 5:01 left, Cardinals sophomore goalie Allegra Grant came out to cut off the angle on a free-position shot by Wagner, forcing the Hershey, Pa. native to send her attempt wide left.
- Johnsen capitalized on a free-position shot with four minutes, 23 seconds remaining, placing a shot just beyond the reach of Grant's stick. Grant responded by making an outstanding stop from point-blank range on a drive by freshman Abbi Munson with 2:32 on the board, and Wesleyan quickly transitioned down field. Sophomore midfielder Emma Richards buried a shot 34 seconds later, assisted by Prokupek, extending the lead to 7-4.
- Messiah trimmed the deficit to 7-5 heading into intermission courtesy of a goal by freshman Abby Howard with 24 seconds left on a hard drive through traffic on the right side.
- The two teams split the first four goals of the second half. Wood and sophomore Grace Andonian scored for Wesleyan, while Wagner and Howard found the back of the net, as Wesleyan held a 9-7 lead with 23:38 remaining.
- Messiah then rattled off two straight goals, evening the game at 9-9. Johnsen raced down the left wing and buried a shot into the top of the net with nine minutes, 13 seconds elapsed in the half. Junior Madi Morris generated the equalizer off a free-position shot, carrying the ball across the net moving left, before flicking a shot into the left side of the goal 21 seconds after Johnsen's tally.
- White sent a perfect pass onto the stick of sophomore Allie Damren, and the Westwood, Mass. native turned around and fired a shot pass the goal line with 15:43 remaining in the game, putting Wesleyan in front for good at 10-9.
- Wesleyan claimed an 11-9 lead 3:59 later on a bullet by White, while streaking down the left side of the attacking zone. White factored into her third straight goal, giving the Cardinals an insurance goal with 11:03 left, assisted by Manning.
- Wesleyan took complete control with 5:46 left on Manning's fourth goal of the game and 35th of the year, resulting in a 13-9 cushion. Johnsen ended the scoring for Messiah on a goal from a free-position shot with 1:11 remaining.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Grant (11-6) stopped a game-high 10 shots in the win, while Orner (13-4) suffered the loss for the Falcons, making five saves in the first half. During the second half, freshman goalie Jessie Lissner stopped 8-of-14 shots for Messiah.
- Wood finished with a pair of goals for Wesleyan, while Howard found the back of the net twice for Messiah.
- The Cardinals held a 35-24 advantage in shots, including a 26-20 lead in shots on goal. Wesleyan also won the ground-ball battle, 21-19, and led the draw-controls category, 14-11.
- The Cardinals only made 12 turnovers, while forcing the Falcons into 20 giveaways.
-- Recap by Trevor Wenners --