Setting the Tone: Pace Scores First 10, Wins NCAA Division II Women's Title


Kayla Conway was named most outstanding player of the NCAA championship.

Making its first appearance in the national championship game, Pace might have played the best first quarter in the history of NCAA lacrosse championships.

The Setters dominated draws and possession, had an 18-2 advantage in shots and pushed the game into running time before the end of the period by building a 10-0 lead. It was a flawless performance, made all the more impressive by the fact that it was against the top-ranked team in the country.

That 10-goal advantage was the eventual difference, as third-seeded Pace claimed its first national title with a 19-9 win over West Chester at Key Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Pace (21-2) set a new NCAA Division II record for goals scored in the championship game and also became the first D-II team to win the championship in its first tournament appearance.

Even for a team that has been accustomed to fast starts throughout its historic 2023 season, Pace coach Tricia Molfetta could not have scripted a better opening.

The Setters scored eight goals before West Chester could even get off a shot. The Rams had only two possessions in the first 12 minutes, and both ended in unforced turnovers. The Setters won the first 10 draw controls. Nobody could have imaged this type of a performance.

“We talked about starting with intensity, and that performance was a true testament to the players just executing the game plan,” Molfetta said. “But nowhere in my wildest dreams did I think we would be leading by 10 goals at the end of the first quarter.”

Junior midfielder Angelina Porcello and tournament most valuable player Kayla Conway both registered first-quarter hat tricks.

Conway’s impact was felt as much in the draw circle as it was in the scoring column. Already the school’s all-time draw leader, Conway enjoyed a dominant day as Pace finished with a 23-8 edge in draw controls, with Porcello and Alexandra Quinn scooping balls off the circle that Conway didn’t corral herself.

“The three of us have worked together for such a long time, and we just have great chemistry on those draws,” Conway said. “It’s like we can all read each other’s minds. We’ve been that way all season.”

Pace’s lead eventually grew to 13-0 on Sydney Juvelier’s third goal of the game, a woman-up score at 9:01 of the second quarter.

West Chester (22-1) finally won a draw control and converted it into its first goal of the game (by Keri Barnett) just over a minute later. The first half ended with the Setters leading 15-2 and owning a new record for most goals scored in one half of an NCAA Division II tournament game.

To its credit, West Chester regrouped at halftime and scored the only three goals of the third quarter and six of the first seven after intermission, but the hole was much too deep. The day belonged to Pace.

“This is so unbelievable,” Molfetta said. “Credit to our players who all season long stayed very level headed and just kept moving forward. They wouldn’t be denied. This is a big deal for our program.”

As a veteran team that features a number of third- and fourth-year players, the Setters were unfazed by their first appearance in the championship.

“We knew we were going to close the deal today,” Conway said. “This team has been building for this moment for the past several years. We weren’t going to stop.”

Porcello finished with a game-high five goals for Pace and was one of six multi-goal scorers for the Setters, who rank third in Division II in scoring average with 18.1 goals per game. Juvelier, Conway and Jolie Urraro all finished with three goals.

Senior Emma Rafferty added two goals to finish the year with a new Pace single-season record of 83.  

West Chester (22-1) was trying to become the first team since 2014 to register an undefeated national championship season. The Golden Rams, champions in 2002 and 2008, finish as the national runner-up for the ninth time.

“I am so very proud of this team,” West Chester coach Ginny Martino said. “They didn’t give up and played [Pace] even in the second half. It was just too big of a hole to come back from.”

Graduate attacker Lindsey Monigle led the Rams with three goals and three assists and concludes her career with 299 points, sixth all-time in West Chester history.


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