May 21, 2011

Adelphi, Limestone Advance to D-II Final

by Mark Macyk | | NCAA Division II Semifinals Live Blog Replay

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. -- It was a big day for Long Islanders at the NCAA Division II women's lacrosse semifinals Saturday at Adelphi. The home team Panthers moved one step closer to a three-peat, eliminating Le Moyne 18-13 in the North region final.

In the South region final, Limestone's Racquel Prager, a native Seaford, N.Y. which is 12 miles from Adelphi, scored six goals to propel the Saints to a 10-9 win and their first trip to the championship game.

Adelphi and Limestone will meet in the title game Sunday at noon.

Saints survive on judgment day

The world didn't end, but Limestone's streak of postseason futility did. The Saints had reached the semifinals for three straight seasons; West Chester had eliminated them in two of the past three seasons.

"West Chester has been a thorn in our sides," said Limestone coach Scott Tucker. "We wanted to get that monkey off our backs."

Prager almost lifted that monkey herself. Her third goal of the game broke a 5-5 tie and gave Limestone (18-1) the lead for good in the final moments of the first half. She scored the first two goals in the second as Limestone built a 10-6 lead.

Long Island native Racquel Prager scored six goals Saturday in Limestone's 10-9 NCAA Division II semifinal victory over West Chester.

© Joe Rogate

"It was awesome looking into the crowd and seeing my whole family," said Prager, who decided to attend Limestone four years ago because her brother had.

Rashelle McLellan made 11 saves to lead Limestone.

West Chester mounted a late comeback, but it amounted to too little, too late. Claire Grimwood scored her second goal of the game to cut it to 10-9 with 3:53 remaining. The Saints were able to run out the clock in the final minute.

"Our team likes a comeback," said senior Jackie Hoover, who led West Chester with three goals. "Today we were just unable to capitalize on that comeback."

Said West Chester coach Ginny Martino: "You can't dig yourself into a hole that big."

It was the second run West Chester made. Limestone led 5-2 midway through the second half, but West Chester scored three in a row after a timeout to knot the game at five.

Limestone won't have too long to bask in the glory of its first South region title.

Said Tucker: "No matter where we play Adelphi, it's tough."

Adelphi one win away

Adelphi walked the walk during the game and talked the talk afterwards.

"I'm not gonna lie to you; it was important for us to show the rest of the Division I world," said Adelphi coach Joe Spallina. "They probably don't want to hear that Adelphi thinks they're D-I or whatever. If we had lost to a team coming down from D-I, the perception would be we're clearly a Division II-caliber team. We're not. We prove it in the fall. The only people who say we're not a Division I-caliber team, don't want us to be.

Le Moyne transitioned from Division I to Division II this season. Adelphi has won two straight NCAA titles.

Claire Petersen led Adelphi with four goals and three assists, Elizabeth Fey had four goals and one assist, Erica DeVito had three goals and one assist and Devan Crimi had two goals and two assists.

"She didn't play like a freshman," Spallina said. "If I didn't just tell you, you probably wouldn't even know she's a freshman."

It was Adelphi's third win over Le Moyne this season.

"People ask, how do you beat a good team three times," Spallana said. "How do you beat a great team once?"

Claire Peterson scored four goals and dished three assists to push top-seeded and host Adelphi past Le Moyne in the NCAA Division II semifinals Saturday.

© Joe Rogate

Adelphi's a great team, but Le Moyne almost beat them earlier this year. The Dolphins played Adelphi to its closest result of the season, falling 11-9 on March 23. Looking back on the game, Fey said there was so much snow on the field that day, she can't believe they played the game.

"There wasn't snow today," Fey said. "So they couldn't stop us."

Added Spallina: "I put a special request into the big man upstairs."

Adelphi got it to running time when Fey scored with 12:12 remaining to make it 17-7. Fey scored again three minutes later for Adelphi's largest lead of the game. Le Moyne closed the game with six straight goals. Brittany Brigandi led Le Moyne with five goals and one assist. Michelle Phillips had four goals.

Adelphi is seeking its third straight national championship, but Spallina said there was added pressure playing at home.

"These guys will tell you I'm probably the most arrogant, cocky person you'll ever meet in your life. But I was nervous," he said. "I didn't want to let the athletic director down. It was important for us to be alive and well tomorrow, which we are."

The nervousness didn't show. After the game, Adelphi's players looked loose and relaxed.

Said Le Moyne coach Beth Hewitt: "For them, it's old news."

Indeed, Spallina and the Panthers even have the press conference thing down. The losing team always talks to the media first.

"I'll see you tomorrow," Spallina said on his way out. "Hopefully second."

Jones wins Elite 88 Award

Adelphi senior Kristin Jones was honored with the Elite 88 award Friday, given to the player with the highest GPA among final four competitors.

"She's the best nerd on our team," Spallina said, laughing. "We're proud of her. She keeps our GPA up... But that's who she is. She's a great kid."

Then Spallina paused and admitted the line about her being a nerd wasn't his.

"I stole that joke from one of the girls," he said.

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