Contact: Mike O'Brien
AMHERST, Mass. – Setting a program record with 19 wins, the fifth-ranked Amherst College women's lacrosse team booked a trip to the NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse Semifinals for the sixth time in school history and first since 2004, after defeating No. 4 TCNJ, 8-5, at Pratt Field on Sunday.
The Jeffs (19-2) prevailed in a defensive battle against the Lions, who finish the season with a 19-2 record. Saturday's game was the seventh postseason meeting between the two schools, as Amherst avenged an 8-7 second round loss to TCNJ in 2012, and have taken a 4-3 advantage in the NCAA Championship series dating back to 1996. With the win, the Jeffs advance to the 'Final Four' to face No. 2 Salisbury in Gettysburg, Pa. on Saturday, May 24 at 4 p.m.
Amherst is now 22-9 all-time in 11 NCAA Championship appearances and 6-2 in quarterfinal games. The team's 19 wins are a school record, surpassing the 18-win plateau set by the 2003 national champion squad (18-2). They also finish the year 10-0 at home after opening the season 14-0 overall, the best start in program history.
Krista Zsitvay '14 and Rachel Passarelli '16 led the offensive attack for the Jeffs and were involved in seven of the team's eight goals. Passarelli assisted on one of Zsitvay's game-high four goals, while adding three herself. Heath Cockrell '15 picked up a team-high three ground balls while Kate Paolano '16 forced three turnovers to lead all Jeffs. Christy Forrest '16 had another stellar game in net and stopped six shots her way.
The Lions were led offensively by Lauren Pigott '14, who scored two of the team's five goals, while three others contributed one goal each. Kelly Schlupp '17 made six saves for TCNJ in the losing effort, just her second in her first-year campaign.
Amherst came out strong to start the game, winning the first draw control and controlling possession for the first two and a half minutes when Zsitvay found the back of the net for the first score of the game at the 27:29 mark.
After six minutes of scoreless action, the Lions evened the score on a goal from Pigott as both teams went back and forth throughout the first 30 minutes of play.
The Jeffs scored shortly after when Zsitvay tallied her second of the game, but Kendal Borup '15 retaliated by sneaking past a Jeff defender to tie the game at 2-2. Just seconds later, TCNJ took its first lead of the game on a marker from Cortney Natalicchio '16. However, after roughly 12 minutes of scoreless action, Zsitvay tied the game once again at 3:38 as the teams entered the break even, 3-3.
Both defenses remained resilient in the second half until Amherst broke the scoring drought that lasted over 13 minutes. At the 19:56 mark, Passarelli recorded her first of the game on an unassisted marker to put the home team ahead once again.
However, TCNJ retaliated just over a minute later and tacked on back-to-back goals just 17 seconds apart to go ahead, 5-4. The lead lasted roughly six minutes until Zsitvay scored her fourth of the contest to even the game and put the momentum back in Amherst's favor.
Passarelli scored the go-ahead goal unassisted at the 8:53 mark and added an insurance tally at 7:15 after receiving a pass from Caroline Holliday '14. With just 1:24 remaining, Holliday found Philie in front of the net as the senior ripped a one-timer past Schlupp. Amherst's defense did the rest, holding the Lions scoreless for the final 18:26 of play en route to the win.