April 19, 2014

Louisville Clinches Share of Big East Title

from press release

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It was an emotional for the University of Louisville women's lacrosse program. Before the game, the Cardinals paid tribute to their nine seniors with an emotional ceremony, and after the contest, Louisville celebrated in jubilation with its first BIG EAST regular-season title.

Behind goals from seven different players and another solid performance in the cage from freshman Ashley Peacock, Louisville (12-3, 6-0 BIG EAST) powered its way past Rutgers 18-6 on Saturday at the UofL Lacrosse Stadium. The win ensured Louisville at least a share of the conference's regular-season crown.

Senior Nikki Boltja, one of the most accomplished players in school history, logged four goals and one assist in helping Louisville to its continuing school record eighth-consecutive win. With her five points, she moved into second place on the school's career points list with 212.

Classmates Colleen O'Malley and Jamie Redding combined for three goals and two assists, and Peacock made five saves for her second career win.

"I am a little bit speechless because we have worked really hard to get to this place," head coach Kellie Young said on clinching the title. "It is something that we have talked about for seven years of this program. So, to finally accomplish it, I am not only proud of this team of seniors but all the players who have come before and worked really hard to build a confident and determined program here."

Louisville dictated the tempo the entire second half. The Cardinals outshot the Scarlet Knights 21-4, held a 9-1 advantage in ground balls, won 10 draw controls to Rutgers' three, and forced Rutgers into eight turnovers.

After scoring the first six goals of the period in just the first eight minutes, the Cardinals had grown the lead to 10.

Faye Brust earned a free-position attempt less than two minutes into play, scoring one of Louisville's six goals from the eight-meter position. Cortnee Daley tacked on another goal via a free-position opportunity, and then Brust scored her fourth of five goals on Boltja's 18th assist of the season. Boltja netted her first goal of the game, Kaylin Morissette tacked on a score, and Boltja's tally - her team-leading 59th of the season - to cap the run and put Louisville ahead 14-4.

Rutgers' Megan Clements stopped the running clock with her second goal of the game, but the Cardinals' regained a double-digit lead on Morissette's 32nd score of the year.

Daley, Brust, and Anna Kopecka scored three of the game's final four goals - with Kopecka's coming with two seconds left on the clock - before the horn blew, solidifying the Cardinals' share of the conference title.

"Tears," Young said she felt when the clock read all zeros. "It's overwhelming. I am incredibly proud of this team. We have been through a lot - some of it from our own choices. These 18- and 22-year olds recovered with such maturity and with such confidence while deciding that the past is the past and now they are moving forward. To grow up is what I want them to do as a coach. I want to watch 18 year olds come in and grow into women and know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. I am really proud."

Morissette not only finished with a hat trick, but she had 11 draw controls and just one turnover in the game. Senior Monica Negron also had a strong showing, collecting five draw controls and a team-best three ground balls. Co-captain and classmate Hillary Bushway recorded one of seven caused turnovers in the victory.

"This group of seniors is special," Young said. "They have stood by each other, been really strong leaders, made good decisions on the field, and worked hard on their games on their own. They have driven this program to where we are this year. First years, sophomores, and juniors have really followed their lead, and we win games like this because of all the time they put in their own work without coaches watching.

"The seniors have led the way to this championship."

Rutgers attempted to assume the role of spoiler from the game's start. The Scarlet Knights scored the first goal five minutes into the contest on a free-position shot, and after Louisville's Kaylin Morissette knotted the game at one apiece, Rutgers reclaimed the lead just two minutes later.

After making a few adjustments, Louisville pounced on Rutgers (8-8, 2-4) for six unanswered goals in an eight-minute span.

Brust fought her way past the Scarlet Knights' defense for her first score of the game before O'Malley and Boltja netted consecutive goals within 51 seconds of each other. Redding then tallied her lone goal of the game, Brust recorded her second score, and O'Malley capped the spurt at the 11:20 mark on a feed from Redding.

Rutgers outscored Louisville 2-1 to close the first half, bringing the Scarlet Knights within their four - their closest margin since the opening minutes of the game.

"We talked about some things in that first time out," Young said. "We chilled out a little bit. We have started out the last three games a little bit anxious in the first half. It was having that trust and sticking to the scout plan and executing what we want to do. It was just us chilling out and starting to play hard and together."

Louisville closes the regular season at home on Thursday against Marquette. First draw is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the UofL Lacrosse Stadium.

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