PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The third time was the charm for the Plymouth State College women's lacrosse team.
Denied a New England Women's Lacrosse Alliance title in the first two years of the conference, despite two regular season divisional crowns, Plymouth State captured the 2000 NEWLA Championship Saturday with a hard-fought 17-15 victory over Bridgewater State College at Arold Field in the rematch of last year's title game.
The victory was the Panthers' ninth in a row, increasing their school-record total to 15 wins (and just three losses). PSC earns the automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championships, the program's first appearance in the national tournament.
The NCAA tournament selection committee will announce the complete field, along with pairings, dates and times, following a Sunday conference call. PSC's opening game is expected to be played Thursday (5/11).
Bridgewater State, which had its seven-game winning streak stopped, falls to 11-6 overall. The Bears now await word on a possible ECAC post-season berth, which will be announced Monday.
Plymouth State led the whole way against Bridgewater, but could not put away the Bears. Holding an 11-8 advantage at halftime, the Panthers opened the second half with four consecutive goals to take a 15-8 lead. The Bears rallied with six of the game's next seven goals over a 13-minute span to cut the deficit to two at 16-14, but time ran out on the defending champions.
"There were a lot of momentum switches," said PSC head coach Abby Burbank. "We had the lead the whole time, but they definitely put the pressure on us."
Sophomore Robin Hartman (Santa Maria, Cal.) led PSC with four goals, giving her a team-high 46 this season. Senior Faith Wahlen (Hampstead, NH), the team's overall scoring leader, contributed a goal and three assists, giving her 37 goals and 24 assists.
PSC also got two goals apiece from seniors Jess Shapiro (Windsor Locks, Conn.) and Amanda Beedy (New Hampton, NH), juniors Courtney O'Sullivan (East Kingston, NH) and Chrystn Pitt (Freeport, Maine) and sophomore Brooke Smith (Columbia, SC), and one goal each from sophomore Marcia Wood (Sanford, Maine) and freshman Heather Adey (Nashua, NH).
"We have a lot of depth on this team," said Burbank. "We don't have one go-to person. We have a lot of people who can score."
The Bears were led by freshman Stacie Dufour with five goals and sophomore Paula Habel with four. Sophomore Jessica Kistler and freshman Laura Swart contributed two goals apiece, and seniors Rebecca Shulenburg and Ann Silvia scored one each.
"Plymouth dominated the midfield and their offensive game from their attackers kept us off balance," said BSC coach Josh Hexter. "We were not able to clear it out of our own defensive end. We made a lot of bad decisions and silly turnovers."
Both goalies - PSC's Lisa Goldberg (Newton, Mass.) and BSC's Jo-Ellen Murgo registered 12 saves.
"This is great for our team," added Burbank. "We worked hard all season. We felt this was an attainable goal, and we met every challenge along the way. We look forward to representing Plymouth State College and NEWLA in the NCAA Tournament."
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