Crimson Hawks drop game between nationally ranked teams

Sarah Ward (senior, health and physical education) right, throws a shot on net during a 27-11 win over East Stroudsburg April 5. (Nick Dampman/ The Penn)

In a highly anticipated conference matchup, the Mercyhurst University Lakers came away with a hard-fought 15-13 victory over Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s women’s lacrosse Tuesday.

With both teams dodging steady, winter-like weather at George P. Miller Stadium, Mercyhurst, ranked No. 12 in Division II, used a late string of goals to pull out the victory and loosen IUP’s stranglehold atop the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference standings.

“Obviously, it’s very disappointing,” head coach Mindy Richmond said. “It’s a big game we really wanted to win.”

No. 7 IUP entered Tuesday with a perfect 8-0 conference record with four games to play, while the Lakers were tied for second at 6-1.

Lock Haven University now holds the second-place spot ahead of Mercyhurst due to a 10-8 head-to-head victory April 9.

Lock Haven dropped an 11-9 overtime decision March 23 to the Crimson Hawks in the teams’ only meeting of the season.

Anna LeGrett put the visitors on the board first with a strike more than a minute into the game.

The Crimson Hawks answered with three consecutive goals over a 12-minute span to take a 3-1 lead.

LeGrett scored again, but Amy Weinberg (sophomore, special education and clinical services) put IUP up 4-2.

However, the lead was short-lived, as Mercyhurst ripped off five goals in the last 11 minutes of the first half.

Brittney Palardy (sophomore, health and physical education) scored one of her six goals off of a Weinberg pass with 30 seconds left in the half to get IUP within two at 7-5.

The Crimson Hawks tried their best to pull away in the second half and on two occasions held two-goal leads. However, both times, the Lakers came storming back to tie the game.

Sarah Ward (senior, health and physical education) scored to put IUP up 12-10 with 10:13 left in the game.

Mackenzie Jordan and Taylor Ventre scored the next three goals of the game to steal the momentum and put Mercyhurst up again at 13-12.

Weinberg answered on a low shot between goalkeeper Rebecca Muscella’s legs to tie the game once again.

A goal with 4:43 left put Mercyhurst up by one, and a late insurance goal sealed the 15-13 victory for the Lakers.

Richmond was pleased with her team’s effort but felt that there is room to improve.

“We struggled on the draw circle there in the second half,” Richmond said. “I feel like more than anything we hurt ourselves in the first half.”

The Crimson Hawks did hold the advantage in shots attempted, totaling 31 and forcing 12 Mercyhurst saves including nine in the first half.

“We outshot them, we weren’t finishing, we weren’t moving the goalie, so that hurt us really bad,” Richmond said. “The girls played tough; it just didn’t go our way today.”

IUP had a chance to tie the game with three minutes remaining. Brenna Gallagher (junior, human development and environmental studies) forced a turnover on defense, giving the Crimson Hawks a chance to tie the game.

After some passing around the goal, the Mercyhurst defense stood tall as Muscella saved a shot by Drew Hayden (sophomore, special education and clinical services) to deny IUP the equalizer.

“We just needed to finish that shot, and we didn’t,” Richmond said of the IUP’s late possession. “You hope that the play calls work for us, but when it doesn’t, there’s not a whole lot you can really do about that.”

IUP continues on its homestand with consecutive games Friday and Saturday against Shippensburg University and West Chester University, respectively.

“We have to rebound, and I feel confident the girls will,” Richmond said. “They aren’t used to losing, and they don’t like losing, so I know that they’re going to work hard.

“And we’re going to prepare, and we’re going to watch film and be ready for this weekend.”

Hayden, although she scored just two goals against Mercyhurst, is a player to watch as she moves up the all-time scoring list.

Hayden sits at 46 goals on the season, just nine back of 2013 graduate Alexa Lodovici’s record 55 goal season set last year. She has two regular-season games left to tie or break Lodovici’s record.