May 18, 2014

Thrilling Double-Feature Sees Adelphi, Lock Haven Into Finals

by Steve Hemphill | | Twitter | May Madness Home

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NCAA Finals In-Game Blog - Lock Haven vs. Adelphi


Chelsea Borrino had five assists for Lock Haven, including feeding Kelly Hamilton for the game-winner in overtime. (Lock Haven Athletics)

SALEM, Va. – Saturday's NCAA Division II women's lacrosse Final Four at Kerr Stadium offered the kind of double-feature old movie houses loved to showcase – two very distinct storylines that a single audience would want to watch.

And the fact that the owners of eight of the last 10 D-II championships, including all of the last five—LIU-Post and Adelphi – were set to play in Game 2, maybe some looked at Saturday's opener between Lock Haven and Lindenwood as sort of an "undercard" affair.

By the time Lock Haven had eked out a 10-9 overtime victory, those feelings had been vanquished.

Just about since the modern era of Division II women's lacrosse began back in 2001, the Panthers have been a contender. Their seven tournament appearances ranks fifth overall, but closing the deal has always been a challenge. Lock Haven's only other trip to the national championship game came back in 2009, which also happens to be the last time the finals were played in Salem.

The opponent that day, just as it will be on Sunday, was Adelphi, which won that game 16-4. Getting that rematch, however, was no cakewalk. Although it might have looked that way when Lock Haven held a 6-2 lead in the closing seconds of the first half.

But the lead was cut down to 6-3 when the Lions scored with two seconds to go before halftime.

"We knew it was going to be a tough second half," Lock Haven coach Kristen Selvage said. "Lindenwood is very good at making adjustments, and that's what they did."

The Lions had fought a different battle to get to this point. For those in the lacrosse world not familiar with this program, that's not surprising since it hasn't been fielding a varsity team for very long. The Missouri school just moved to varsity status in 2012, and then it had to wait two full seasons before it would be eligible to postseason play.

And once Lindenwood was eligible, getting teams to make the trip to St. Charles, Mo., proved to be a challenge. In a month's time in the middle of there (between March 7 and April 6), the Lions played nine of 10 games on the road. They traveled to places such as central Pennsylvania, North Carolina and the Western Slope of Colorado.

And they went 9-1 in that stretch. One of those wins, a 13-9 victory over Florida Southern, is the game coach Jack Cribben credited with helping the Lions earn their NCAA bid.

"At the beginning of the year, no one probably saw us playing at this point in May," Cribben said. "But we fought the whole season, and we fought today."

Lindenwood controlled the game through much of the second, and took a 9-8 lead with under seven minutes to play. The Lions then regained possession and went into a slow-down attack, with the idea of running the clock.

Cribben said it wasn't an out-and-out stall.

"If they had pulled their goalie, and tried to double-team us, we were going to go and score," Cribben said. "... We were just trying to keep possession as long as possible. ... If we had an opportunity to score, we would have taken it.

"... You can second-guess the strategy we had, but we were happy with it, and they made a good play to get possession."

Lock Haven's patience despite a dwindling clock was a result of how its season had gone, according to Selvage. When the Eagles opened the season with two wins, followed by two losses, the pressure to not lose again became rather heavy.

"We never really verbalized it to them, but they knew that they had to go undefeated the rest of the season to get to this point," she said.

Lock Haven senior Chelsea Borrino said as the season went on, the Eagles got better about dealing with the pressure of close games, and as other teams suffered costly losses as the season went on, Lock Haven's stock continued to rise.

"I never paid attention to like who gets [into the tournament] or how they get in," Borrino said. "I'd ask on occasion, but I didn't really worry about. Finally [the coaches] we needed to win [the conference title], so that's what we did."

And when the Eagles need to score to force overtime, and win in overtime, Borrino was calmly working around her team's offensive zone, looking for open teammates. She fed Rachel Ward with the ball, who then scored the tying goal with 1:49 to play.

In OT, she found Kelly Hamilton, who put the winner into the net.

"I don't want to lose anything," Borrino said. "I want to go all the way. I feel that as a captain, too, leading by example is the best way to do it. If I can pass the ball, and get girls to score, that's what I'm going to do to help my team."

So while many fans might have been looking forward to another tight contest in Game 2, Adelphi's players were not part of that caucus. The Panthers, who had seen their previous two seasons end with losses to LIU-Post, were in no mood to experience that feeling again.

"[Losing last year] was hard," Adelphi senior Devan Crimi said. "When I was coming into the press conference [on Saturday], I was thinking about the video we saw last year of all the girls crying after we lost. It was heartbreaking."

That 7-6 loss to the Pioneers was a game many Panther players, including Crimi, felt like they let get away. It made for a long summer, but once the 2014 season began, Adelphi was playing with new resolve.

The Panthers dominated most of their opponents, often scoring 20 goals, and usually winning by at least 10. But even though top-ranked Adelphi had been winning by big margins so often, facing LIU-Post was expected to be a different experience.

Adelphi was ready. The Panthers' draw specialist Felicia Mills helped control 11 of the 13 first-half draws. The Panthers led 9-3 at the half, and the LIU-Post offense, even with the presence of college women's lacrosse's all-time leading scorer Jackie Sileo, never quite figured out how to slow down Adelphi.

"We don't want to give anyone a chance to come back," Crimi said. "If we can put a team away, that's what we're going to do. And it's not just one player. We have five or six people going up on that scoreboard. We're an offensive threat, which is nice."

But saying goodbye to LIU-Post also meant saying goodbye to Sileo as well. As Pioneers coach Meghan McNamara talked about her star senior – whom she referred to as the best player in the country – it was impossible for her to not get a little emotional.

"She had an incredible career," Jackie had tremendous character, vision of the sport and knowledge of the sport. ... She just kept getting better, and she brought this air of enjoyment to the game of lacrosse. She really taught us about character and never giving up."

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