May 3, 2014

Brust Outburst Leads Louisville to First NCAA Berth

by Megan Schneider | | Live Blog Replay

WASHINGTON, D.C. - With a career-best six goals, Faye Brust – the Big East Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player – was unstoppable as she led her Louisville Cardinals to a 9-8 victory over Georgetown, clinching the school's first Big East title in its final year in the league. Louisville now looks onward to the NCAA Tournament and the ACC next year.

“I feel great but it was mainly my team that helped me become that player,” Brust said on the honor. “It’s a team win. We’re looking to come out. We’re not done yet. NCAA Tournament, we’re so pumped for that.”

It’s a historical season for the Cardinals as they earned their first bid to the NCAA Tournament. In the program’s short seven-year history, 2014 marks its second appearance in the Big East tournament. In 2009, the Cardinals had earned a spot in the conference semifinals, but fell to top seed Georgetown 21-12.

Yet this year, the tides have turned. Louisville earned the No. 1 seed, while Georgetown trailed at No. 2 – and that top seeding was well-deserved. The Cardinals swept all four major awards going into today’s championship game – Kellie Young, Coach of the Year; Nikki Boltja, Attack Player of the Year; Kaylin Morissette, Midfielder of the Year; and Monica Negron, Defensive Player of the Year.

“This was our mission from the get-go from August until now,” said Morissette, a Tewaaraton nominee. “It’s kind of surreal that we accomplished it. It’s the first one Louisville lacrosse has gotten and it’s the last Big East championship that our school’s going to get.”

Georgetown opened the game strong, controlling possession with a goal by Hannah Franklin less than three minutes in, but the excitement of home-field advantage was short-lived.

Brust responded with four consecutive goals for the Cardinals, one of which was assisted by Tewaaraton nominee Boltja. At the 20-minute mark, Louisville was winning 4-1.

To tie the game back up, the Hoyas answered with three consecutive goals of their own – one each for Natalie Miller, Kelyn Freedman and Caroline Tarzian.

Louisville was out of sync on defense for a brief period, unsure of when to slide, which allowed those goals to slip past them.

“We wanted to play steady one-on-one defense and when necessary, go [double],” Young said. “In the first half, we got a little confused between when we should flash and when we should actually commit to the double team. But you’ve got to double them. Their attackers are strong. They were going to the cage harder than they were going when we played them earlier in the season [when Louisville won 14-13].”

But Brust wanted her team to have the lead going into halftime, so she sunk two more unassisted goals before the buzzer sounded.

“[She was] just believing in herself more than anything,” Young said of Brust’s performance. “After Thursday night’s game [against Rutgers in the Big East semifinals], she was frustrated. She was a little nervous and yet she still had two goals. I think coming in today she got her confidence back, trusting in her speed and trusting in her shot. Certainly, that’s a big reason why we won today.”

Starting the second half, Brust had already recorded a double hat trick, or in other words, a record six goals for her season high. But the Hoyas shut her down and did not allow her to score again.

“It’s probably a combination that they slowed the tempo down a bit to control possession, but we just tried to double a little bit earlier to get the ball out of her stick,” Georgetown coach Ricky Fried said. “While they had some other big threats, they kind of relied on her, and when the ball was out of her stick, we felt a little bit more comfortable.”

Georgetown opened the half similarly to how they started the game, with a goal by Kristen Bandos at the 27:45 mark.  

Pressuring Louisville’s goalie when possible, the Hoyas played tight defense on the rides and caused several turnovers. But the Cardinals made the necessary adjustments to get the ball back into their offensive third for another goal by Morissette.

“You can do long passes against a lot of programs but you can’t against Georgetown,” Young explained. “Short passes is how you beat this ride – and off-ball movement, shifting into open space and putting the ball in that space. That’s a big reason to how we got the ball in our offensive end.”

Colleen Lovett scored to bring the Hoyas back within one, but Morissette quickly scored again, less than five minutes later.

Freedman won the ensuing draw for the Hoyas, but a high shot and a turnover put the ball back into Louisville’s hands. Georgetown again turned to double-teaming in hopes of regaining possession.

With a turnover on the clear and a one-on-nothing for Morissette, Georgetown’s freshman goalie Maddy Fisher had to sprint back into the cage, but came up big with a save. Without Fisher’s efforts between the pipes and her game total of seven saves, the score differential would have been higher.

“She’s been steady for us all year long,” Fried said. “At the end of the game, she came up with two or three pretty big saves, one-on-one. She’s a really comforting force for the defense as a whole.”

Boltja scored Louisville’s final goal on a free position shot with just under 10 minutes to play. Now down by three, Reilly Woodman beat two defenders to net a goal for Georgetown, making the score 9-7.

The Hoyas triple teamed Brust, Boltja and Morissette for the remainder of the game when the opportunity presented itself. After a yellow card on Georgetown’s Casey McGowan, Fisher was pulled from the cage to stand behind the restraining line so they could add the extra defender in crunch time.

With 59 seconds remaining, the Hoyas were able to get the ball back and Franklin scored her second goal of the game, but it was also Georgetown’s last. They came up one goal short to hand Louisville their first Big East title.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” said Young, Louisville’s first and only coach. “This is a team that has been committed to our mission all year long, doing the extra work, playing as a team. To see that dream come to fruition, that is a pretty amazing feeling.”

The Cardinals will gather on Selection Sunday to find out whom they will be playing in the first round of their first NCAA Tournament.

“We’re going to prepare this week as much as we can,” said Brust. “We don’t know who we’re playing but it doesn’t matter because we’re Louisville.”

As Morissette said, anything can happen. They just want to finish this season with a “big bang.”

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