GETTYSBURG, Pa. – The No. 12 York College women's lacrosse team saw it's 2015 season and memorable run through the 2015 NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse Championship come to a close on Sunday with a 10-8 loss to No. 6 Middlebury College in the NCAA Regional Championship game.
The Spartans (15-6) were challenged right away after Middlebury (16-3) won the opening draw, but York rose to the occasion early. The Panthers recorded the game's first shot less than 20 seconds into the contest and Rachel Donovan (Ellicott City, Md. / Howard) made her presence known as she stood strong and made game's first save. Donovan would make another big save on a free-position attempt, but the Spartans seemed anxious to get the ball out their defensive zone and ended up turning it over. The Panthers capitalized on the Spartan miscue and tallied the game's first goal less than three minutes in.
The two sides swapped possessions through the next seven minutes of play before York finally broke the seal on the Panther defense. Sophomore Katelyn Cattrano (Manchester, Md. / Manchester Valley), who was denied earlier in the contest, would no be denied a second time as she converted a free-position attempt with 18:23 left in the first half.
Once again the Panthers won the ensuing draw control, but once more Donovan came up with critical save early on. York transitioned quickly down the field to set up the offense. The Spartans drew another free-position opportunity and this time it was senior Sarah Castle (Annapolis, Md. / Annapolis Area Christian) who found the back of the net to put York ahead 2-1.
Over the next three minutes, the teams went through a back-and-fourth scoring battle with two ties and two lead changes. The Spartans received another goal by Cattrano, but Middlebury tacked on two goals of its own to tie the game 3-3 with 13:28 left to play in the first half. The Panthers then took the lead with 12:09 left and that started a run of four straight goals to end the first half and put Middlebury ahead 7-3.
The Panthers finished the first half with an 8-3 advantage on the draw, which proved to be a huge factor in their first-half success because it prevented the Spartans from getting into an offensive rhythm. York did not record its first draw control until nearly 15 minutes into the half and by that point Middlebury had already won four.
The second half start just like the first, Middlebury won the draw, recorded a shot within the first minute and Donovan made another save. That save gave the Spartans some momentum and kick started the offense as they maintained possession through the first five minutes of the second half with four shots and three free-position opportunities. York finally got back on the board on its fourth shot of the half when Jayme Verman (York, Pa. / Lancaster Country Day) tallied her 33rd goal of the season.
The Spartans kept on the offensive and out-shot the Panthers 6-3 through the first 10 minutes of the half, but Middlebury managed to out-score York 2-1 through that span and extended its lead to 9-4.
Despite the five-goal deficit, there was still 20 minutes left to play and it is not in York's nature to quit not matter how desperate the situation as head coach Jen Muston explained.
"We've never been a team to quit playing. We're always going to play to the end no matter what," explained Muston. "Our players understand that lacrosse is a game of waves and there's no reason to stop playing because you can go on a run and erase a deficit very quickly."
The Spartans mounted a comeback wave as Verman tallied her second goal of the game with 17:51 left to play. The play started with York on a free-position attempt and Allison Kolacy (Rockaway, N.J. / Morris Knolls) passed up the shot to dish it to Verman who finished from the close left wing. York managed to extend its wave of momentum and tacked on another goal to cut the deficit to 9-6. Kelly Curran (North Massapequa, N.Y. / Plainedge) tallied the goal as she received a pass from Kolacy on the left wing and then ripped a shot past the goalie. The play was started in the defensive zone when Karlie Dougherty (Baltimore, Md. / Mercy) caused a turnover and picked up the ground ball to gain possession for York.
The Panthers won the ensuing draw and went into the stall to run some time off the clock. Middlebury was successful in that plan as they ran over six minutes off the clock and then scored a goal to take a 10-6 lead with 3:22 left to play. However, the Spartans still would not surrender as Kolacy bounced a shot past the goalie and into the upper right corner of the net with 1:44 left to play.
The Spartans called a timeout following the goal by Kolacy to set up for the next possession. York won the ensuing draw and in 21 seconds put another goal on the board courtesy of Lily Damalouji (Prince Frederick, Md. / Calvert) and only trailed 10-8. However, Middlebury won the next draw control and managed to run out the final 1:23 left on the clock to advance to semifinal round.
Middlebury finished the game with a 12-8 advantage in draw controls, while York held the advantage in shots (23-20) and caused turnovers (6-3). Donovan made seven saves for the Spartans, one shy of tying her career-high, while her counterpart, Katie Mandigo recorded nine saves. Donovan and the Spartan defense helped hold the Panther offense under their season average of 13.33 goals per game.
With the win, the Panthers advance to the NCAA semifinals for the 15th time in program history. Middlebury has been a standard of which to follow in Division III women's lacrosse as they own a record of 45-15 in NCAA tournament play, which is good for the second-best winning percentage (.750) in tournament history and is making its 21st appearance in the NCAA tournament in the last 22 years.
York closes out a year in which they hit multiple historical milestones. The Spartans embarked on its 10th season of competition in 2015 and recorded its 100th win as a program on March 7 in a 9-7 win at home over No. 18 Ithaca College. Dougherty made significant historical contributions to the Spartan program as she became the first player in program history to be named the Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year and last Friday became the first first-team IWLCA All-American for the program. Following Saturday's win over No. 5 Gettysburg College, the Spartans earned their first trip to the NCAA Regional Championship game and it was the first win in program history over a top-five ranked opponent. Also, York's 15 wins this season ties a program record set last season.
Coach Muston had high praise for her team as she reflected back on the season that was 2015.
"Coming into the season, on paper, this was not the most talented that I've had at York, but they evolved into the best team I've ever had as the season progressed," said Muston. "They put the time and effort in to getting better, but they became the best team because they truly believed we could make this far, and they backed it up. That's what sets this team apart."
The Spartan women's lacrosse program must say goodbye to two seniors who leave as the most successful senior class in program history. The duo of Castle and Dougherty have compiled a record of 58-21 (winning percentage of .734), led York to four-straight CAC Championship game appearances, four-straight appearances in the NCAA Sweet 16 and the program's first NCAA Regional Championship appearance.
Castle leaves York as the program's all-time leader in games started and games played as she has started all 77 games of her career in a Spartan uniform. She ranks sixth on the program's all-time scoring list with 124 points on 103 goals and 21 assists. She ranks fourth all-time in goals, free-position goals (21) and draw controls (142), while ranking seventh in caused turnovers (50). Castle is a two-time first-team All-CAC selection and a two-time first-team IWLCA All-Metro Region Selection.
Dougherty holds the distinction of being the program's first first-team IWLCA All-American and first CAC Player of the Year. The senior defender ranks fourth all-time in caused turnovers with 70 and fifth in draw controls with 107 to go along with 100 career ground balls. Dougherty also has a first-team All-CAC selection and a first-team IWLCA All-Metro Region selection to add to her list of accomplishments.
Coach Muston had nothing but the highest praise for her two seniors.
"Sarah is the heart of this team and everything falls into place because of her attitude and her mentality," said Muston. "When things are going well, she is the first one to celebrate, and when times are tough she is the first one to step up and lead the pack by doing whatever she can to contribute."
"Karlie is the guts of the team and her work ethic on the field is evidence of that," explained Muston. "She plays with so much passion and she is all over the field trying to make things happen for us."
The York College Athletic department would like to congratulate Coach Muston and the women's lacrosse team on a fantastic 2015 season, and wish these two Spartan seniors the very best in their future endeavors.