Women's Lacrosse Drops NEC Home-Opener To Sacred Heart, 10-8

HAMDEN, Conn. – Everything was clicking for the Quinnipiac women's lacrosse team through the first 25 minutes but the Pioneers came storming back from a 5-1 deficit to eventually come away with a 10-8 victory from the QU Lacrosse Turf Complex on Friday afternoon. The Bobcats were paced by senior Sarah Allen (Glastonbury, Conn.) who pumped in three goals for her second career hat trick and first since March 21, 2010. The Bobcats drop their Northeast Conference opener for the first time since 2008 as they fall to 2-6 (0-1 NEC) while Sacred Heart picks up their first victory of the season and improve to 1-5 (1-0 NEC).

"Today's loss was a tough one for us," said Quinnipiac women's lacrosse head coach Danie Caro. "Sacred Heart came to play and they outworked us in the second half. We need to look inward and decide what type of team we want to be."

Prior to Friday's game, both teams honored head coach Christina Quigley of the Seton Hill University women's lacrosse program, who passed away in a bus accident on Saturday, March 16, 2013. A moment of silence was held before the start of the game as both teams wore crimson and gold ribbons on their shoelaces in honor of Seton Hill and their tragic loss. Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart were two of many teams taking part in "Play 4 Seton Hill," a nation-wide campaign for this cause.

Allen was a key cog in the Bobcat offense all afternoon as she also assisted on two other goals to give her five points against Sacred Heart, her most in any game this season. Sophomore Kyra Ochwat (Farmingdale, N.Y.) was the only other multi-point scorer for the Bobcats as she recorded two points (one goal, one assist). The Pioneer defense was strong all afternoon as the Bobcats managed 25 shots but just eight goals including three in the second half.

"We really didn't get the performance we were hoping for out of our attack unit," Caro said. "Even though we did some things well, we had way too many turnovers, especially late in the game. We need to work on valuing our possessions more, and making sure we are being disciplined with the ball."

Junior Phoebe LaPlante (New Bedford, Mass.) led the Bobcats' defensive effort as she forced a game-high four turnovers and also led the way in groundballs with four. Junior Emily Samuelman (North Andover, Mass.) also was a solid cover on the Pioneers' leading scorer Emily Pepe, who came in leading the team with 12 points but finished Friday with just one assist. Sophomore goalie Samantha Tilts was strong in net despite the decision as she posted a .500 save percentage, stopping 10-of-20 Pioneer shots. After struggling her first two games of the year, Tilts has turned her play around, compiling a .479 save percentage (67 saves on 140 shots) over her past six games.

"I thought Emily did a really nice job on defense today," Caro said. "Sam played well again for us, making some great saves. If we can fix some of the little mistakes we're making, we'll be in good shape moving forward."

A consistent thorn in the sides of the Bobcats for years, Sacred Heart continues their dominance over Quinnipiac, improving to 14-5 all-time against their instate rival. Two key factors that led to the Bobcats' demise was the considerable 14-6 edge for the Pioneers on draw controls for the game, as well as the play of juniors Shelby Vaccaro, who netted five points (four goals, one assist), and Kelsey Russo who finished with a hat trick including the eventual game-winner with less than nine minutes remaining.

On what could best be described as a frigid Friday afternoon from the QU Lacrosse Turf Complex, the Bobcats seized momentum early and appeared to have a stranglehold on the game from the opening whistle. Sacred Heart won the opening draw and possessed for nearly five minutes before LaPlante picked up a groundball. The Pioneers conservative pace clearly didn't slow down the Bobcats as Allen scored the first Quinnipiac goal, her first free-position goal of the season, at the 21:00 mark of the first half.

Nearly 15 minutes into the game and it was still a 1-0 game before the Bobcats were called for a yellow card, putting the Pioneers up one man for two minutes. The extra-man advantage for Sacred Heart went by the wasteside as freshman Maria Blois (Cheshire, Conn.) forced a turnover and the Bobcat offense worked their way into a free position shot. The initial shot from Blois went wide put Allen picked the ball up, dished off the Blois in front who scored her seventh goal of the season.

Quinnipiac struck again for two goals in 20 seconds as senior Chelsea Guerrera (Wantagh, N.Y.) scored her fifth of the season on an assist from Allen, followed by from freshman Aileen Carey's second career goal that push the Bobcats ahead, 4-0.

Sacred Heart was finally able to put one past Tilts at the 10:08 mark with Vaccaro's first goal of the day. She used her speed to slice her way deep into the Bobcats' defensive end before beating Tilt on her right side. Ochwat then responded for the Bobcats with her team-leading 17th tally of the season to increase the lead back up to four at the 7:08 mark.

After Ochwat's goal however, the tides turned in favor of the Pioneers as Sacred Heart rattled off six unanswered goals and held the Bobcats scoreless for over 20 minutes of play. The rally began with a free position goal from Taylor Babin at 5:29 and then another Vaccaro goal at 2:24 nearing the end of the half as Quinnipiac went into halftime with a 5-3 lead.

The second half started with an up-and-down play that wasn't evident in the first half. Turnovers were forced on both sides before Babin finally struck for Sacred Heart at 21:31. Another Pioneer goal at 19:52 tied the score at 5-5 and then the Pioneers took their first lead of the game with a Russo goal at 19:12.

Vaccaro once again used her impressive stick-handling ability as she was able to poke home a rebound after Tilts saved her initial shot. With Sacred Heart storming all the way back ahead 7-5, the Bobcats were able to bounce back and appeared to regain momentum with goals from Allen and junior Michaela Tinsley (Shrewsbury, Mass.) to knot the score at 7-7 and force a Pioneer timeout.

The Bobcats won the next draw and had an opportunity to seize the lead but Ochwat's shot dinged off the post. The Pioneers then quickly took advantage with a transition goal from Russo and 39 seconds later scored another to take a 9-7 lead.

Draw controls heavily favored Sacred Heart down the stretch as they owned a commanding 8-3 lead throughout the second half. Quinnipiac was forced to pressure the ball and Vaccaro took advantage behind the net as she wrapped around the post and beat Tilts low for the final Sacred Heart goal. Allen added one late for the Bobcats to give her the second hat trick of her career but it wasn't enough as Sacred Heart rallied back for a 10-8 victory.

Quinnipiac needs to regroup as they hope to end their four-game losing streak when they travel to take on Bryant on Thursday, March 28 at 7:00 p.m. and then take on Central Conn. St. on Saturday, March 30 at 1:00 p.m.

"We're going to have to re-group and get ready for Bryant and Central next weekend," Caro said. "They are both quality opponents, so we'll have our work cut out for us."

Contact: Maxx McNall; maxx.mcnall@quinnipiac.edu