BENNINGTON, Vt. — In just its second year as a collegiate varsity program, the Southern Vermont College women's lacrosse team is headed to the conference semifinals as the third-seeded Mountaineers defeated No. 6 Elms College 18-10 Tuesday evening in a New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) first-round playoff at Everett Field.
SVC held the Blazers to just three scores in the opening 30 minutes to bring a four-goal lead into halftime. The hosting Mountaineers then outscored EC by four in the second half as well to finish off the victory, exacting revenge after Elms defeated Southern Vermont in the first round of last year's postseason tournament.
The Mountaineers improve to 6-10 on the year, now having won three of their last four games. EC finishes the 2016 campaign with a 7-10 overall record.
Southern Vermont now gets set to head to No. 2 Becker College on Thursday for a 6 p.m. semifinal matchup. The Hawks defeated SVC 15-9 during the two sides' regular season meeting, a game played back on March 30 which started the NECC schedule.
SVC was led by a career night from junior captain Lauren Nesshoever (Chittenden, Vt.) who tallied a collegiate-best eight goals, topping her previous game-high of five; she added an assist and four draw controls to her line in the win. Fellow junior captain Mel Orrell (Gloucester, Mass.) added three goals, two assists and three caused turnovers to go along with her game-highs of eight ground balls and six draw controls. Freshman Stephany Ferreira (Shelton, Conn.) notched two goals, an assist, and three ground balls while classmate Aubrey Vierstra (Saugerties, N.Y.) tallied another pair of scores and one assist.
Mountaineer keeper Kelsey Carrera (Queensbury, N.Y.) made eight saves to pick up the win (4-5) in net, coming up with big-time stops time-after-time to help keep Elms from getting back in it.
Elms senior Ashley Cava (Wilbraham, Mass.) registered three goals, an assist, and two caused turnovers in the effort while sophomore Jackie Soucia (Belchertown, Mass.) had two goals and team-highs of six ground balls and four draw controls. Senior Jill Pirog (Ludlow, Mass.) and freshman Mackenzie Hill (Brownfield, Maine) each scored another pair on the day for the visitors.
Blazer sophomore netminder Alissa Porfilio (Agawam, Mass.) made six saves in goal during the loss (2-3).
SVC earned an 20-10 advantage on the draw, but Elms recorded a 29-23 edge in ground balls. The Mountaineers forced 11turnovers on the Blazer clear while committing just six of their own, and Southern Vermont played a disciplined match as the hosts were whistled for nearly half as many fouls as EC (43-23).
Vierstra got the Mountaineers on the board first with a goal in the opening minute, giving them a quick upper hand. She took the ball at the top-right edge of the fan and cut to the goal, firing a left-handed shot into the near side of the net for her first of the day. Nesshoever got her first of the game to go about three minutes later, taking a pass from junior captain Emily Lesure (Cheshire, Mass.) in front of the net, spinning away from her defender and beating the EC goalie for the 2-0 edge.
Pirog cut the deficit in half as she got the Blazers on the board at the 20:17 mark, moving down the right edge of the pitch before bouncing a shot into the bottom-left corner of the frame. Both defensive units played well over the next 4:25 of action to maintain the low-scoring theme before Elms tied it up with a Soucia tally. She took the ball from behind the goal, wrapped around the left side of the cage and made a leaping, turnaround flick shot into the lower part of the net.
SVC would then seize the momentum, going on a 5-1 run to close out the half. Coming off a restart, Orrell made a nice, one-handed basket catch at her own restraining line and took it the distance before finishing her long carry with a left-handed flick into the back of the goal. Nesshoever got the next one when she got herself open on the left post, catching a Ferreira pass and punching it past the Blazer keeper to make it a 4-2 game. She added another for the hat-trick just 28 seconds later to put the Mountaineers up by three with 11:15 to go in the half.
Pirog trimmed the SVC lead with her second goal of the day, grabbing a Cava pass from over the top and spinning around to open up a shooting lane for her 39th score of the year. Orrell would get it back about two minutes later, bringing the ball in across the face of the net from the right and sending it back inside the near post with 3:50 left in the period.
Nesshoever would then make the most of a free-position opportunity at the left edge, slinging the ball into the left side of the cage to make it a 7-3 contest. Neither squad could put one home through the remainder of the period, Carrera making two saves in the waning minutes to keep her team on top by four heading to the intermission.
Southern Vermont wasted little time in padding its lead in the second half as Orrell sent a nice pass to Nesshoever who made the quick catch-and-flick into the back of the net. Ferreira potted the next goal to put her team up by six, scooping up a failed Elms clear in front of the Blazer net and firing it home with her first of the day. Hill cut it closer with a free-position tally soon-after, slotting it into the left side of the net to make it a 9-4 game.
Orrell grabbed the ensuing draw control, going all the way to the goal as she captured the attention of the EC defense; Vierstra snuck in front of the left post, swiping her stick through the air to send the Orrell pass into the cage with one fluid motion, her fifth of the season putting the Mountaineers ahead 10-6.
Vitale made a man-up advantage hurt EC as she cut into the fan undefended, snagging a Vierstra pass and bouncing it between the Blazer keeper's legs for her fifth of the year. Cava got her 33rd of the 2016 campaign to go at the 24:27 mark as the mist grew heavier and the high-scoring action continued, taking a pass on the goal line and popping back out to the face of the net before sneaking it inside the right post to set the score at 11-5.
Card trouble mounted for Elms as three consecutive yellows in a minute-long span gave the Mountaineers a three-man advantage. Nesshover bounced her sixth of the afternoon off the turf with a free-position shot on the left edge of the fan, and she then fed freshman Hailee Walker (Cohoes, N.Y.) just 12 seconds later for the rookie to fire home her 18th goal of the year and put her team on top 13-5.
Lesure then potted her 31st of the season off the subsequent draw control, splitting a pair of Blazer defenders and flinging a shot into the left side of the net. Orrell further padded the Mountaineers' lead after another EC yellow card, converting on a free-position opportunity for her league-leading 63rd goal of the year. That score kept the clock rolling with the 15-5 SVC upper hand and all but put the game out of the Blazers' reach.
Ferreira notched her sixth of the season to up the Southern Vermont advantage, coming across the field from the right corner and shoveling a backhanded shot past the EC goaltender. Elms got the next two goals of the match, sophomore Madison Crawford (Bennington, Vt.) first picking up a loose ball in front of the goal and whipping in a shot to the right side of the net for her third of the year. Hill then sent in a free-position goal at the 8:53 mark, her seventh of the season cutting it to a 16-7 Southern Vermont lead.
Nesshoever got one back, taking a pass from the Mountaineer side of the center circle and bringing it all the way down the field before shooting it into the lower-right corner to force an Elms timeout. EC got two scores in a 12-second span, Soucia getting her 47th of the year on a man-up opportunity before Cava took a pass from freshman Vanessa Vurno (Salem, Conn.) off the ensuing draw control and ripped it into the back of the net.
The comeback attempt would be too late, however, as the clock wound down on the Blazers' season. Nesshoever bounced in her final tally of the day and her 35th of the year on a free-position shot, and Cava added another score with 1:06 on the clock, being assisted again by Vurno to cap her season with 35 tallies of her own. The eight-goal SVC upper hand would hold through the final minute as the Mountaineers celebrated their first playoff win and second victory over Elms in four days.