Lightfoot Leads Utah Valley to First WCLA Division II Final


WCLA Division II Player of the Year May Lightfoot scored six goals to lead Utah Valley a 17-5 win over Denver in the semifinals Thursday.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – National player of the year Maya Lightfoot scored a team-high six goals and sophomore Marilyn Hales added three as top-seeded Utah Valley defeated No. 5 seed Denver Club, 17-15, to advance to the national championship for the first time in program history.

The Wolverines face No. 2 seed New Hampshire Club, another first-timer in the final game, in Friday’s title matchup at 1 p.m. Eastern. Both the Division I and Division II finals will be streamed live on USA Lacrosse’s YouTube channel.

Utah Valley (17-1) had already beaten its Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference rival Denver three times this year and anticipated the close battle that awaited in Thursday’s semifinal game.

“We know Denver, and they know us,” Lightfoot said. “They are a very good team and we’re both from a tough region.”

Initially, it appeared that Utah Valley would seize control as it used a five-goal run in the second quarter, fueled by two unassisted scores from Lightfoot, to build a 10-5 lead.
But the Pioneers were not ready to go away, answering with their own five-goal run to knot the score at 10-10 at half.

Two goals apiece in the third quarter kept the teams deadlocked as they began the final 15 minutes. That’s when Utah Valley finally found some separation, scoring three of the next four goals to build a lead it would keep to the end. Two goals by Hales, including a free position with 9:02 left, helped build the margin.

“We think of ourselves as a fourth-quarter team, so we weren’t too worried about being in a tight battle until that point,” Lightfoot said.

Denver (12-4) was led by freshman Emma Flynn, who tallied a game-high seven goals, and senior Abby Ramsey, who added two goals and an assist.

As joint members of the Northeast Women’s Lacrosse League, Vermont and New Hampshire were also meeting for the fourth time this year in Thursday’s second semifinal. Just four goals separated them through the first three matches, with Vermont winning twice.

This time, it wasn’t close. New Hampshire (13-2-1) dominated at both ends of the field from start to finish and posted a 13-3 victory to earn its first championship game appearance.

Freshman Mackenzie Cretsinger had four goals and two assists, and senior Ava Dobbelaer and sophomore Lucy Witherbee added two goals each, but it was really the UNH defense that stole the show.

Led by defenders Ava Gaudette, Julia Ryan and Libby Stone, the Wildcats limited Vermont to just one goal over a stretch of 43 minutes, from late in the first quarter to late in the fourth.

When Vermont was able to break free for an open look, UNH goalies Mikaela Aschbrenner (11 saves) and Tess Nunes (6 saves) were brilliant. They each played 30 minutes and both made several point-blank stops.

DJO and Gatorade are the official event sponsors for the 2023 USA Lacrosse WCLA National Championships.

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