Final 4 rookie Amherst shocks champion CNJ

Lions ousted, 11-8, suffer just 2nd loss in 133 games

Middlebury gains title game

Division III women's tournament

May 16, 1999|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

In its first trip to the final four, Amherst pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Division III women's lacrosse history yesterday.

The fifth-ranked Jeffs scored three goals in the first 2 1/2 minutes and went on to stun No. 1 and defending champ College of New Jersey, 11-8, in a Division III semifinal at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field.

The Massachusetts team dealt the College of New Jersey its second loss in its past 133 games. The Lions (14-1) had won six of the past eight Division III crowns.

Amherst (14-2) will meet No. 2 Middlebury for the title at noon today at Homewood Field. The Panthers beat William Smith, 13-7, in yesterday's other semifinal.

The Jeffs scored more goals on the Lions than any team this season. The Lions led Division III by ceding just 4.23 goals per game. Their scoring average of 16.62 and scoring margin of 12.38 also led Division III.

Until yesterday, the Lions had the longest active winning streak in women's college lacrosse at 29 games. They also had been to the title game eight straight times and had won nine national titles since 1985.

None of that history intimidated the Jeffs. Katherine Poulin scored on a feed from Kristin Osborn 36 seconds into the game, and the Jeffs never surrendered the lead.

The Jeffs' combination of patient attack and superb marking defense was too much for the Lions to overcome, especially when they trailed 3-0 so early in the game. "This was the first time all season we've been scored on first," said Lions goalie Sharon Vitulli. "To see them come down with such fire in their eyes off the draw was a little shocking."

Vitulli helped the Lions climb back into the game with several key saves to spark consecutive goals from Megan Wilson and Fran Constantine, but Amherst's defense then shut the Lions out for the next 29 minutes.

Irene Permut, Aimee Carroll, Alison Kitay and Kathleen Sanford led a defense that held the Lions to their lowest offensive output since March 13, 1997.

"We were fully aware that they were such an offensive powerhouse," said Carroll. "We just had to play our game and play good defense. They only had two goals in the first half, which is amazing. I'm really proud of our team."

After Osborn scored a buzzer-beater before halftime, the Jeffs increased their lead to 7-2 early in the second half. Jessica McCourt capped a 5-1 run to pull the Lions within 8-7 with 11: 33 left, but they could not get closer.

The Jeffs, who won their 11th straight game, dominated the ground balls, forced several turnovers and held the Lions scoreless for 10 minutes. While the Jeffs' defense held, Sarah Scheessele scored three straight goals. Her last, on an assist from Jen Corso with 1: 45 left, put the game out of reach.

Middlebury 13, William Smith 7: The Panthers (16-0) also jumped out to an early lead to earn their third appearance in the final in the last four years. Heidi Howard and Jessa Martin scored two goals each as the Panthers took a 4-0 lead in just over four minutes.

The Herons (15-2) pulled as close as within 7-5 early in the second half, but the Panthers answered with three straight goals.

Middlebury, which beat the Herons, 18-14, during the regular season, dominated every statistical category, including shots (50-22), ground balls (50-33) and caused turnovers (16-10). The Herons turned the ball over 30 times.

Most of the Herons' turnovers came as they tried to attack Middlebury's zone. The Panthers keyed on preventing 5-foot-10 Meghan Genovese from catching passes into the middle of the zone.

"She's very tall, so she can catch the ball up high and get a shot right from the middle," said Middlebury senior defender Missy Hopkins, "so the top of our zone worked on that."

The Panthers shut Genovese out yesterday. She had scored three goals in the regular-season game, but had just one assist yesterday.

Amherst 11, College of New Jersey 8

Amherst 4 7 -- 11

CNJ 2 6 -- 8

Goals: A--Scheessele 4, Osborn 3, Poulin 2, Meade, Bernstein; CNJ--Constantine 2, McCourt 2, Wilson, Mastny, Fellona, Latona. Assists: A--Meade 2, Corso 2, Osborn; CNJ--Wilson 2, Constantine, Mennen. Saves: A--Thaxton 5; CNJ--Vitulli 12.

Middlebury 13, William Smith 7

William Smith 4 3 -- 7

Middlebury 7 6 -- 13

Goals: WS--James 3, Doerge 2, Nason-Junco, Armiger; M--Howard 4, Martin 3, Bergofsky 2, Dripps 2, Hagerman, Wall. Assists: WS--James, Wrynn, Genovese; M--Hagerman 2, Wheeler. Saves: WS--Khachadourian 23; M--Samson 10.

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