Lakers top Kutztown 21-10

Marco Cicchino, Staff writer

The last time the Mercyhurst women’s lacrosse program won eight games in a row, it was three years ago when they ran the table en route to the first PSAC title in program history. Perhaps this is an omen of the near-future.

With a 21-10 victory over the Kutztown University Golden Bears, the 23rd-ranked Lakers are running their current hot streak to eight wins, the third-longest streak in program history, and the first since April 2016. The game secured the Lakers the 3-seed in next week’s conference tournament and a quarterfinal contest against Millersville on April 30.

“We didn’t start off too well, it just stung, we weren’t in the right mindset, but we found a good flow on our team, we’ve been working very hard each practice, each game,” Lakers Kira Kolb, said. “It’s basically a lot of grit and hard work that’s been getting put into it.”

Since falling to the West Chester University Rams on March 30, the Lakers (12-5, 9-3) have been holding their opponents to an average of 6.75 goals per contest, outscoring them 104-54 in the process and allowing double-digit tallies only twice, including an upset of then-No. 11 East Stroudsburg last Saturday.

The Lakers drove 13 past Golden Bear goalie Megan Vaughan in the first half. Angelina Simon needed just 48 seconds into the second half to score for the Lakers after her defense cleared the turnover off Golden Bear Destanee Watkins. But after the Lakers’ Paige Cocina won the ensuing faceoff, the Golden Bears’ Amanda Lehman fouled Brenna Fosco, allowing her to find Julia Rescott.

Another successful Laker clear allowed Fosco to find Emma Hubert at 4:09 to bring her season total to 59, top in the PSAC and 16 off the program record set by Breana Haggerty in 2008. The Golden Bears did not need long to respond, as the Lakers’ Mackenzie Shanahan lost her grounder to Lehman, leading to a foul on Laker goalie Kaitlyn Lippert that the Golden Bears’ Cyla Cafferata would convert on.

But the Lakers’ Kolb continued her magical season and grabbed the ensuing draw, allowing Fosco to score just 58 seconds later and Hubert at 6:55. The Golden Bears then coaxed Laker Lacey Netti into a turnover of her own, allowing Emily Smith a score. Lippert (8-1, 7.38), in goal for the Lakers, exacted revenge on her foul earlier and stopped the Golden Bears’ Jordan Klebe on the ensuing free and allowed a clear. After Netti hit the post on a free at 10:37, Hubert picked up the grounder and found Molly Meegan 31 seconds later.

The Golden Bears’ Shannon Darcy was unable to clear on 13 minutes, allowing the Lakers’ Payton Cook a score. After Cocina won the ensuing draw, Simon was coaxed into a turnover before Victoria Sullivan drew a foul to allow the Golden Bears’ Erin Vaughan-Ware and finding a goal for teammate Makalya Bowman. The Golden Bears’ Watkins fouled Cocina at 17:40, allowing her to convert the free for her first of the day, win the ensuing faceoff, and allow Fosco to connect with Hubert within 30 seconds. Watkins was not done fouling however, drawing a blow on the Lakers’ Cassandra Ellis that allowed her to convert the ensuing free.

The Lakers’ Fosco then went back to work after Lippert stoned Bowman, clearing and finding Rescott with 9:15 left before intermission to run the lead to nine. However, both keepers began to find their rhythm from this point, stopping a combined four free-position shots in a 3:18 span preceding Laker Netti’s first assist of the game, finding Hubert with 3:01 left before the half.

But the Golden Bears were not done yet, as Devon Fitzpatrick won the ensuing draw and scored twice in 40 seconds to keep the margin at single digits. This would be the end of Lippert’s day, as it was Raelyn Tiberio’s turn for the Lakers. However, Golden Bear Vaughan-Ware had no interest, finding Smith just a minute into the second.

But the Laker’s defense coaxed a shot-clock violation, allowing Cocina a conversion. The next Golden Bear score came when Laker Meegan fouled Lauren Schmidt, who beat Tiberio (4-4, 11.22) on its free.  But the Golden Bears’ Rylee Hill fouled Netti 1:21 later, allowing her to beat Vaughan on the free to restore the eight-goal advantage. A Laker foul by Diana Schmitt returned the favor on Watkins and Vaughan-Ware, allowing them to beat Tiberio on a respective free.

But after the Lakers’ Kolb committed a foul and missed the draw, Lehman lost her ball and saw Ellis recover the grounder, killing the Bears’ momentum and allowing a clear before Netti drew a foul from Darcy and converted her second free in 2:24. Netti, the Lakers’ assist leader, was at it again 2:30 later, responding to a pair of Vaughan saves and grabbing the rebound off a shot from Hubert. Netti finished off her hat-trick in a span of just five minutes, bringing her to a team-leading 76 points, just 28 off Ally Keirn’s 2010 record.

But the Golden Bears’ Fitzpatrick would coax the Lakers into a giveaway, allowing Smith a score with 14:39 remaining. But that was the end of the line for the hosts, as Netti was in a rhythm and found teammate Rescott 1:18 later and then Sullivan. After getting stopped by the Golden Bears’ Vaughan with 10:30 left in regulation after a free from the Lakers’ Cook hit the post, sparking another stretch of free midfield play.

But the Lakers were unfazed, seeing Gina Perna and Ellis (from Netti) score with 13 seconds left to secure the victory.

“We took our tenacity and the fire that we had in the East Stroudsburg game, into Edinboro and Kutztown because they are a big rival,” said Kolb. “Our coaches wanted us to take that … because it is just as big of a game in the PSAC.”