by Sean Begin
Winning in sports by one is a unique situation. For the losing team, it can be particularly devastating to come up just short of a win. For the winning team, elation at pulling out the win can be a boost of confidence.
In the first two of four straight home conference games, the Central Connecticut women’s lacrosse team experienced both sides of the one-goal game.
The team held off St. Francis (Pa.) to win 11-10 on Friday before falling to Robert Morris 9-8 in sudden victory double overtime Sunday afternoon.
“I think what we found in [the St. Francis] game was we played an excellent first half,” said head coach Laura Campbell. “And then we kind of put our foot on the brakes a little bit, so to speak, in the second half.”
“So our big goal going into this game was to put a complete game together and to keep responding and keep being resilient. And so I’m really proud of them that they rose to that today.”
And respond they did. The Blue Devils faced a fierce Colonial attack in the first half and were outshot 15-to-6, but thanks to a couple wide shots and stellar goalkeeping from junior Morgan Tullar, they entered the half with a 4-3 lead.
The Colonials (9-4, 3-1 NEC) scored first 6:33 into the first half on a free position shot, but Central (5-8, 2-2 NEC) responded at the 21 minute mark with a free position goal from senior Claire Healy to tie the game.
Robert Morris took the lead back with 11:17 to play. Four minutes later, Healy’s fellow captain, Amanda Toke scored the first of her three goals, assisted by sophomore Falynn McCartney. The Colonials once more took the lead with 1:23 to go, but the McCartney-Toke combo struck again 32 seconds later to tie the score.
Then with one second on the clock, McCartney fed Healy for the go-ahead goal and her third assist of the game. Tullar had 10 saves in the half.
“She rose to the occasion and she stepped up for us big,” said Campbell of Tullar’s day. “I hope she takes it and feels good about it, and she should.”
Campbell added: “I also think our defense as a unit, they really did a very good job. [Robert Morris] controlled a lot of the possessions with draws, and it was down our end a lot and defense did a really good job forcing some low percentage shots. So it was a team effort on that.”
Robert Morris opened the second half with three straight goals until McCartney scored unassisted to make the score 6-5, before the Colonials answered with two more goals to pull away 8-5.
“It was starting to go down a road where we’re getting frustrated and that’s been something that we’ve been working on this whole year,” said Campbell. “So I just told them we can’t go down that road. We’ve got to know that we have each other’s backs.”
Like they had been doing all match, Central responded, scoring the final three goals of the half to force overtime. Toke scored her third goal of the game with 11:42 remaining to make it 8-6.
Central didn’t score again unitl a free position goal from McCartney with just 2:15 remaining. McCartney assisted on senior Meaghan McCurry’s goal just 49 seconds later to send the game to overtime.
After a scoreless first overtime period, the teams entered sudden victory double overtime that saw the Colonials pull out the win with 1:38 to go in the first half of the double OT period.
“It came back to clears,” said Campbell when asked where she thought the team struggled on Sunday, “which is funny because against St. Francis we did really well with the clear.
“Our goal was to play a full 60 minutes so it’s kind of ironic that we went into overtime.”
McCartney continued her standout sophomore season on Sunday, tallying two goals, four assists and a team-high four draw controls, which Campbell called Robert Morris one of the best in the nation at. McCartney managed to draw control the ball that led to the Blue Devils’ tying goal.
“I think with that, Falynn was just changing things up a little bit on her just trying to keep her out of any sort of rhythm,” Campbell said of the play.
Captains Toke and Healy finished with three and two goals, respectively, while Tullar finished with 14 total saves.
In Friday’s game against St. Francis (Pa.), Central outscored the Red Flag 9-3 in the first half, putting up seven unanswered goals to take an 8-1 lead early. But St. Francis scored the final six goals of the second half to climb within one before the Blue Devils could close the game out.
McCartney scored four goals on Friday giving her six for the weekend. Toke finished with six as well scoring three against the Red Flash. Freshman Marissa Soto had a good game as well, scoring two goals and adding six draw controls and three ground balls, both team highs.
The Blue Devils will next host conference leader Bryant on Friday, April 18 before facing Sacred Heart a week later, in their last home game of the season.