April 21, 2011

Gannon Stuns Mercyhurst on Hail Mary Goal

from press release

ERIE, Pa. -- The Gannon-Mercyhurst rivalry continues to be like none other. Jess Fugate (Wooster, Ohio/Wooster) scored a game-tying goal with three seconds left in the first overtime after catching a Hail Mary pass from Mary Eshenour (Waterloo, N.Y./Waterloo) and Rachel DerCola's (Rochester, N.Y./Brighton) only score of the match with 1:38 left in the second overtime gave the Lady Knights a pulsating 12-11 double-overtime, sudden-death victory against the Lakers Thursday afternoon at Gannon University Field.

Gannon clinched the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference's third seed and the quarterfinal home match that accompanies it with Thursday's victory. The Lady Knights will host the PSAC's sixth-seed Tuesday, April 26 at Gannon University Field. Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m. Complete details on ticket prices, live gameday statistics and much more will be released early next week.

The PSAC's sixth seed will not be determined until Mercyhurst and Indiana (Pa.) make up a previously snowed out contest Saturday, April 23 at Gannon University Field. If Mercyhurst defeats IUP, Gannon will host East Stroudsburg. If IUP defeats Mercyhurst by four goals or less, the Lady Knights will host IUP. And if IUP defeats Mercyhurst by five goals or more, Gannon will face rival Mercyhurst again.

Thursday's Gannon-Mercyhurst contest featured late-match heroics and spectacular plays on both sides. The first came late in regulation. Mercyhurst produced severe pressure in the Gannon defensive end during the final minute while trying to tie the contest. Margaret Maslyn (Penn Yan, N.Y./Penn Yan Academy) made two crucial saves on free-position shots during that time span, including one on Mercyhurst leading scorer Kimberly Masterson with 12 seconds left. However, Ally Keirn picked up the ground ball and Anna LeGrett scored as time expired to send the match into overtime.

Mercyhurst scored the only goal during the opening half of the first overtime period. Alisha Catalino netted the score with 30 seconds left on the clock.

It was then Gannon's turn for final-second heroics during the second half of the first overtime. The Lady Knights won the opening draw control and held the ball for the first 2:21, before turning the ball over on a pass in front of the net.

Eshenour and Fugate followed with a play worthy of a top-10 nomination. Eshenour made an acrobatic interception in front of the bench at the 40 yard-line with eight seconds left. Gannon's only senior fired a "hail mary" pass 40 yards down field into a crowd in front of the Mercyhurst goal. Fugate caught the ball with her back to the Hurst goalkeeper, turned and scored the tying goal with three seconds left on the clock. The play set off a Gannon celebration and forced sudden-death overtime.

Both teams had chances to win the match during the second overtime. Mercyhurst had three possessions during the first half of the second overtime, but the possessions ended with a turnover and two big Maslyn saves. Gannon had two possessions end in a turnover and a wide shot.

Gannon won the draw control to open the second half of the second overtime session and never gave Mercyhurst another chance. The Lady Knights held the ball for the entire period until DerCola came from behind the net and beat the Hurst goalkeeper for the game-winning score with 1:38 left in the second overtime. Seconds after the winner sailed into the net, the Lady Knights stormed field and mugged DerCola in celebration.

The close score was no surprise to fans on either side. It marked the fifth time in the last seven regular-season match-ups that the verdict was decided by one goal. Six of the last seven have been decided by two goals or less. But Thursday's contest was the first one decided in overtime during the 18-match history between the two programs.

The entire contest was nip and tuck. Neither team was able to grab a lead larger than two goals. Mercyhurst seemed to head into halftime with the momentum after scoring two goals in the final 21 seconds for a 5-3 lead.

However, Gannon responded with the first two goals of the second half to tie the match. It was part of a 5-1 run that opened the half and gave the Lady Knights an 8-6 advantage with 20:11 to play.

The two teams traded the next four scores, before Mercyhurst tallied the final two goals of regulation to force overtime. The Lakers held the Lady Knights scoreless for the final 10:18 of regulation, setting up the Mercyhurst late-match rally.

Eshenour led the Gannon attack with three goals, two assists and the big interception in overtime. Caitlyn Fisher (Cypress, Texas/Cy-Fair) also tallied three scores. Fugate and Sarah Grzybinski (New Market, Md./Linganore) chipped in two goals each.

DerCola and Hughes scored single goals to complete the scoring. DerCola and Christie Valentine (Friendship, Md./Annapolis Area Christian) joined Eshenour with two assists each.

Mercyhurst out-shot Gannon 30-26 and won 15 of 27 draw controls. Maslyn was solid in goal for the Lady Knights, recording a season-high 12 saves.

Gannon, ranked 10th in the latest Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) national rankings and fifth in the initial NCAA Division II South regional rankings, improved to 12-4-1 overall and 8-3 in the PSAC with its season-best fifth consecutive victory. Mercyhurst, tabbed 11th in the latest national rankings, dropped to 11-5 overall and 6-4 in conference play.

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