April 29, 2005
FAIRFIELD, Conn. - Sophomore Christina Pampalone had been waiting for this opportunity since last April. She wasn't about to let it pass by. Pampalone scored a game-high five goals and an inspired Siena squad out-scored LeMoyne 8-3 after intermission to earn a 12-9 MAAC semifinal win over their archrivals at Lessing Field on the Fairfield University campus Friday night.
"We set our goals high after last season, and now we are one game away from seeing them through," an exuberant Pampalone said following Siena's win. "We respect LeMoyne a lot, and knew this game would be a challenge. We were a bit nervous at the start, but obviously we couldn't be happier with the way things turned out."
The Saints (11-6), playing their first postseason game in the 10-year history of the program, used a relentless second half offensive attack to pull away from the stunned Dolphins.
"I'm proud of the way our team responded," head coach Jake McHerron said. "The excitement was there from the start, and it was obvious everyone was focused on the task at hand."
With the win, Siena earns a MAAC Championship date with top-seeded Manhattan, which held off Marist 11-10 in double overtime earlier in the day, on Sunday at noon. The Jaspers defeated the Saints 21-7 in Riverdale on April 17.
"I don't think we were mentally prepared for whatever reason that day," McHerron said. "I think you'll see a different Siena lacrosse team (in the MAAC Championship) Sunday. The real Siena lacrosse team."
LeMoyne (10-6) took a 6-4 lead to the intermission following a balanced first half. The two teams spent the first 10 minutes of the game feeling each other out, before Michelle Eide put the Saints on the board with an unassisted tally. Eide took a pass from behind the net and spun around a defender before finding an opening in the lower left corner of the net.
Anchored by goalie Bethany Zimmer, the Siena defense was stingy in the first 15 minutes of the game, but the offense could not take advantage. Ashlyn McGuire finally broke through for the Dolphins, finishing a free position opportunity following one of several Siena fouls near the net with 15:29 left. LeMoyne scored twice in the next five minutes to take a 3-1 lead.
The second Dolphin goal came on a breakaway just over a minute after McGuire's score. Amanda Keagan cleared the ball out of the Siena zone, and raced free down the middle of the field. She found teammate Beth Sierotnik unguarded in front of the Siena goal, and Sierotnik promptly gave the Dolphins their first lead. Meghan Ketty took advantage of another Siena foul to score the second of LeMoyne's three first half free position goals, giving the third seed a 3-1 lead and forcing a Siena timeout with 10:19 remaining.
Pampalone then cut the lead in half breaking a 10+ minute scoring drought at the eight minute mark. She split defenders and beat LeMoyne goalie Samantha Falcone stick side.
LeMoyne stretched the lead back to two goals when Elizabeth Hewitt scored from point blank range on another free position offering. The Saints battled back to tie the game with two quick goals. The first score came with 3:30 left as Nikki Burger used a nifty wrist shot to score following a nice feed from Amy Schoonmaker. Pampalone tied the game at 4-4 with a dramatic free position goal. The midfielder let loose as she was falling to the ground and snuck the ball past Falcone.
The Dolpnins scored two goals in the final minute to take apparent momentum into the break. Leah Mazella broke free and found Keagan wide open in fron of the Siena net on an odd man rush to give the Dolphins the lead back. Keagan's third goal of the half came with just 19 seconds left as she shook free and bounced the ball past Zimmer.
"I told the team that no games are won or lost in the first half," McHerron said following the game. "I wasn't too nervous, because I thought the effort was there."
Siena responded to McHerron's charge from the first whistle of the final stanza. Joan Paul turned and fired a shot past Harkins to start the Saints comeback, just over one minute into live action. Lynn Harkins, who was credited with the assist on Paul's goal, tied the game one minute later with an unassisted goal.
The Dolphins regained the advantage at the 24:08 mark, when Whitney Vecchio tallied a one timer off a Kylie Rosette pass. The Saints seized control of the game from that point, scoring the next three goals.
Pampalone used some clever misdirection to finish a free position opportunity that again tied the game, and Paul promptly followed with her second score of the half, muscling a shot past Falcone with 16:34 left to give Siena its first lead of the second half. The Saints would never trail again.
Zimmer tightened things up in the net on the other side, stopping several free position chances. At one point, the Siena netminder turned back a Whitney Vecchio attempt from five feet that brought the Siena crowd to its feet.
Pampalone gave the Saints their first two goal lead just one minute later as she took a pass from behind the net and bounced the ball into the net. Vecchio temporarily stopped Siena's momentum with 11:21 remaining as she took a pass from Kylie Rosette following a flurry of activity in from of the net and found an opening on the left side to make the score 9-8.
In one of the game's most dramatic sequences, the Siena defense held as the Dolphins missed on several opportunities to tie the game, and Sarah Elliott emerged from a huddle on the LeMoyne end and raced coast to coast to give Siena back its two goal advantage.
LeMoyne called a timeout, and Alecia Audley scored off a free position chance after getting her stick hit in traffic in front of net to make the score 10-9. Pampalone delivered the dagger with 7:03 remaining beating defenders to draw a foul in front of the net before converting off the free position opportunity.
Tammy Vitolins worked the ball from behind the net, twirled past her defender and bounced the ball past Falcone to add an insurance goal and account for the final 12-9 outcome.
The Saints worked the ball around the outside of the field in the game's final five minutes to preserve the win.
"We have one more game to reach our goal," McHerron said. "We've accomplished a lot, but Sunday is our chance to show everyone that Siena lacrosse has arrived."