Everyone knew that if Kevin Cooke wanted to reprise his previous campaign and predecessor, his players would need to start being the open man. Last season’s PSAC championship exemplified that, as a four-goal deficit evaporated late in the second half and nearly led to his first title. But despite the prior experience and a winning formula, his start to 2018 could not have deviated much farther.
And being outshot 29-14 against fourth-ranked Le Moyne on Feb. 24 didn’t help.
Instead, the Dolphins cracked open a tight first half with five straight tallies and never looked back to send the Lakers to a 16-6 rout in Syracuse. In their worst loss since two double-digit losses in April 2013, the Lakers (0-1) fell victim to a matched 20 turnovers and won just eight of 22 draws. The Lakers were also outshot by six in the second half after a nine-shot deficit in the first. The two squads began the contest much more evenly-paced, as the first of Laker Taylor Izzo’s four turnovers led to the Dolphins’ Bryanna Fazio capitalizing on an ensuing giveaway off the stick of Kira Kolb to open the scoring 3:56 into the contest.
The great momentum swing occurred midway through the first half in a 3-all match. After Laker Cassandra Ellis found a free-position equalizer at 15:29, Fazio won the ensuing faceoff out of a timeout and sent a shot to the left of Laker goalie Abigail Miller, where she restarted the offense and found teammate Sidney Hall, who passed to Monica Sanna at the top of the key. Sanna raced through the slot, spun past Diana Schmitt to maintain possession, and went to the inside of Victoria Sullivan to beat Miller inside the right pipe 32 seconds later to hand the Dolphins (1-0) a 4-3 lead.
“Not only was Le Moyne’s defense consistent, but it was the first regular-season game using a 90-second shot clock,” said Mercyhurst senior Megan Lyons. “The shot clock forces teams to play at a faster pace and get shots off quicker. Defensively, we could use (that) to our advantage, as the team could find success with a more high-pressure defense, forcing turnovers with shot-clock violations.”
The Dolphins’ lead would only compound as the Lakers found themselves facing the first double-digit half played against them since the Dolphins and Millersville both turned the trick on the Lakers in March 2014. The Dolphins’ Erin McMullen then finished off her hat trick just 2:45 into the second. The Lakers’ Miller (0-1, 16.00) managed a career-high 13 saves, the first Laker to reach that mark since Rebecca Muscella in April 2015.
“We are getting some of our hardest competition out of the way early in the season, with Le Moyne and Limestone expected to be our toughest nonconference games,” said Lyons. “Learning how to play against high-level programs will allow us to find more success when we begin conference play. “The team will take this game as a learning experience,” Lyons said. “Minor improvements will make a major difference in the long run.”
The Mercyhurst women’s lacrosse team takes to the field next against Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C., on March 8.