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Historic 2019 Season Ends in NCAA Semifinals as No. 8 Wesleyan Falls to No. 3 Middlebury

Photo by Keith Lucas
Photo by Keith Lucas
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ASHLAND, Va. – A historic 2019 season came to an end Saturday for the Wesleyan women's lacrosse team as the eighth-ranked Cardinals lost to No. 3 Middlebury in the NCAA Semifinals, 16-8, on the campus of Randolph Macon College in Ashland, Va.

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Wesleyan's best season in program history concludes with a 17-4 overall record. Abby Manning led the team in scoring today with three points on two goals and one assist. The Panthers (21-1), led by Emma McDonagh's five goals, advance to the NCAA Championship game to play the winner of No. 4 Tufts and No. 7 Salisbury tomorrow at 2 p.m.

GAME HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Wesleyan got on the board first. After a save by Allegra Grant, the Cardinals came down the field and some solid ball movement led to a pass from Abigail Horst to Johanna Copeland in front of the net as she snuck a shot inside the left post at the 28:31 mark.
  • After nearly six minutes of scoreless action, Middlebury went on a 3-0 run in 92 seconds. Jane Earley scored on a free position goal to open the run and shortly after, Erin Nicholas beat her defender to score right in front of the net, giving the Panthers their first lead at the 22:05 mark. Less than a minute after Nicholas' goal, Earley capped off the run with a high shot to the top left.
  • The Cardinals snapped the run at the 19:36 mark when Caitlin Wood found Manning who fired a low shot into the back of the net.
  • However, Middlebury closed out the half on a 5-1 run beginning with a goal from Jenna McNicholas with 18:32 on the clock.
  • The final five goals of the half came on free position shots.
  • Emma McDonagh extended the lead to three, 5-2, with 15:22 remaining.
  • Horst scored less than two minutes later with a free position goal to the top right corner, but it proved to be the final goal of the half for Wesleyan with 13:36 left to play.
  • Middlebury closed out the first with three position goals, one from Kirsten Murphy and the last two from McDonagh. The Panthers had a chance for another free position goal within the closing seconds but Grant made an incredible save as time expired. Middlebury led 8-3 at the half.
  • The Panthers wasted no time extending their lead in the second half as McDonagh scored again off another free position goal just 44 seconds into play.
  • Copeland scored for Wesleyan at the 24:18 mark, but Middlebury responded with back-to-back goals just 36 seconds apart to go ahead 11-4 with 23:07 remaining.
  • Trailing by seven, the Cardinals mounted a comeback beginning at the 17:40 mark when Wood rifled in a free position goal. Shortly after, Wesleyan came down quickly on transition as Manning received a pass, faked high, then shot low to cut the deficit to five. Three minutes later, Manning dished it off to Kat Cucullo in the middle of the defense as she sent a low shot to the back of the net. The Cardinals trailed by four with 13:59 remaining.
  • However, the four-goal margin proved to be the closest Wesleyan would get the rest of the way.
  • Middlebury rallied with a 5-0 run to put the game away, while Emi Ogden-Fung scored the last goal of the game with 40 seconds remaining.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS:

  • Copeland, Horst, and Wood each registered two points for Wesleyan, while Cucullo, Ogden-Fung, and Prokupek tallied one. Amy Breitfeller led the defense with two caused turnovers, and Jordan Ansell and Copeland recorded two ground balls each. Grant recorded six saves in net.
  • Seven players scored multiple points for Middlebury, as Earley, Henley Hall, and McNicholas scored twice. Seven Panthers caused a turnover, while Nicholas led all players with seven draw controls. Goalie Julia Keith made five stops between the posts.  

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE:

  • Wesleyan's historic 2019 season featured program records of 17 overall wins and eight NESCAC victories.
  • The Cardinals qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the third year in a row while previously never advancing to the national postseason, and in year four of Head Coach Kim Williams' tenure, they reached their first-ever Final Four.
  • Wesleyan's 2019 senior class, consisting of Amy Breitfeller, Breanna Cavanaugh, Abigail Horst, Emi Ogden-Fung, Caroline Sgaglione, and Caitlin Wood, conclude their careers with an overall record of 45-26 (.634) and a NESCAC mark of 23-17 (.575). They are the winningest class in Wesleyan women's lacrosse history and played pivotal roles in the team's success. Their careers featured the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, first-ever NCAA Tournament win, first-ever NESCAC Tournament win, and three-straight NCAA and NESCAC Tournament appearances. The Cardinals got better each year, setting program records in wins each of the last three seasons. They also won back-to-back Little Three Championships (2018, '17).
  • Horst concludes her career with 115 points to rank eighth in program history.
  • The Cardinals were ranked in the top-25 all season and went 14-4 against top-25 opponents. Their four losses came against Middlebury and Tufts, two Final Four teams.
  • Wesleyan had the toughest draw to the Final Four as it defeated the No. 9, No. 2, and No. 1 teams in the country to advance.
  • Abby Manning set a single-season program record in points (84) and goals (69).
  • The magical 2019 campaign also featured the birth of Head Coach Kim Williams' first child, Jackson, the day before the first game of the year.