Saturday Wrap: Eight Conference Champions Crowned

PHOTO COURTESY OF MERCER ATHLETICS


Mercer entered the SoCon tournament two games under .500. It leaves the SoCon tournament at an even 7-7 as one of the feel-good stories of the early stages of the postseason.

The Bears upset second-seeded Coastal Carolina on Thursday and then upset Furman, the top seed, in Saturday afternoon’s conference championship game 14-13.

Hailey Rhatigan, is almost always at the center of things for Mercer, scored a game-high five goals with seven draw controls. Lily Morin netted a hat trick, while Chloe Schaeffer, Eva Thorn and Shannon Urey each had the same line — two goals and one assist.

Furman stormed out to an early 6-1 lead, as Sophie Shaw scored three goals within the first nine minutes. Mercer closed the gap considerably with a 4-0 run of its own.

After Lindsey Kelly fed Meagan Beal to put the Paladins ahead 9-6 with 6:41 left in the first half, Mercer firmly took over.

Spanning the final 4:35 of the first half and the entire second half, Mercer scored eight of the final 12 goals, taking a 14-11 lead with 7:48 left in the game when Schaeffer fed Urey.

Even though Furman threatened by scoring the final two goals, including one with 33 seconds left, Mercer held on to win its third straight conference title and secure its place in the NCAA tournament.

AAC

The Florida offense wouldn’t be denied.

Temple spotted the Gators five goals in the first nine minutes and then watched as Brianna Harris closed the first half with three straight goals, putting Florida ahead by nine at halftime. Temple couldn’t recover, as the Gators captured the AAC championship with a 19-4 victory over the Owls.

Harris had six goals and four assists, Shannon Kavanagh had six goals and Grace Haus had four goals. Florida actually held a disadvantage on draws (14-11 in favor of Temple), but Temple turned the ball over 19 times to offset that advantage.

While Florida captured the conference’s AQ, it remains to be seen if Vanderbilt or Temple will have the resumes to earn an at-large bid.

America East

Ally Kennedy passed Kylie Ohlmiller for second place in program history with 257 goals, and set an America East record with 12 goals in the conference tournament as Stony Brook outlasted Albany 16-9 to win its eighth consecutive AE title and 54th consecutive game against conference competition.

With Oklahoma softball’s loss Friday that snapped a 65-game Big 12 winning streak, Stony Brook now owns the longest conference winning streak in any sport tracked by the NCAA.

Stony Brook led 9-4 at halftime, and Albany cut the gap as close as 9-6 when Kendra Harbinger found Sarah Falk for her 28th goal of the season. But the Seawolves scored three straight from there, taking a 12-6 lead that wouldn’t be relinquished.

By winning the conference tournament, Stony Brook will likely earn a national seed during Sunday night’s selection show.

ASUN

Liberty gave Jacksonville a run, but the Dolphins got six goals from Sarah Elms and four more from Jenny Kinsey in a 13-8 win over the Flames, capturing the ASUN championship.

Jacksonville took a 7-2 lead when Arnold found Elms for her fourth consecutive goal, but Liberty turned it into a game by scoring four straight ­— two from Brooke Bryan and two from Leah Ruby.

Jacksonville ended the spurt with a Megan Prescott goal to make the score 8-6, then Arnold found Molly Brock to make it 9-6.

Liberty scored again to cut the deficit to 9-7, but Jacksonville scored the next four goals (three from Kinsey) to put the game away.







Big East

Denver utilized eight different goal scorers to win its first Big East championship in program history. The 13-7 margin against UConn was led by three goals from Caroline Wiseman and one goal and three assists from Bea Behrins.

The Pioneers have now won 15 straight games after a season-opening loss to Colorado.

It was a complete effort from the Pios defense, which held a capable UConn offense to just 18 shots. It also forced the Huskies into 20 turnovers (14 of them caused). Denver also won the battle on the ground 18-11.

UConn did give the Pios a run. Lia LaPrise fed Madelyn George with 28:07 remaining to cut the deficit to 8-7, but Denver’s defense locked in, holding UConn scoreless the rest of the way. The Pios ended the game on a 5-0 run, which included two goals from Kayla DeRose.

NEC

Mount St. Mary’s dropped the first two games of 2021 but have now won 14 straight after a 9-8 overtime victory over Wagner in the NEC championship game. Alayna Pagnotta fed Beanie Colson with five seconds left in the extra period for the win.

The Mount needed a monumental comeback to secure the automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament. Down 8-4 after Megan Greco’s goal with 18:50 left, the Mountaineers ended regulation with four straight goals.

Jordan Butler twice fed Pagnotta, cutting the deficit to 8-6, then Colson scored unassisted and Sara Moeller scored the equalizer with 5:28 left to play.

Pac-12

Stanford’s record is still pristine.

The Cardinal are now 11-0 after beating Colorado 17-10 in the Pac-12 championship game, keeping the best start in program history going into the NCAA tournament.

After a high-scoring first half, Stanford led 10-4 thanks to separate runs of 4-0 and 5-0. Ali Baiocco, the Tewaaraton Award nominee, tallied five goals and one assist, and Katherine Gjertsen scored five goals. Ailish Kelly tied with Baiocco for the team-high in points with two goals and four assists.

Kara Rahaim made 13 saves to shut down a scrappy Colorado offense.

Patriot League

Livy Rosenzweig broke Loyola’s all-time scoring record and posted a team-high five points in Loyola’s 11-6 win over Lehigh in the Patriot League championship game. Kaitlyn Larsson made 11 saves. It’s Loyola’s fifth Patriot League crown in seven years and ninth NCAA tournament appearance in the last 10 seasons.

Rosenzweig did all her damage in the first half, netting each of her points as the Greyhounds entered halftime with a 9-3 lead. Her unassisted goal with 1:58 left before halftime passed Hannah Powers for the program’s all-time points record. Rosenzweig now has 319 career points in 60 games.

A more methodical second half limited the scoring for both sides.

Conference Championship Game Scores

AAC

Florida 19, Temple 4

America East

Stony Brook 16, Albany 9

ASUN

Jacksonville 13, Liberty 8

Big East

Denver 13, UConn 7

NEC

Mount St. Mary’s 9, Wagner 8 (OT)

Pac-12

Stanford 17, Colorado 10

Patriot League

Loyola 11, Lehigh 6

SoCon

Mercer 14, Furman 13

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