CHAMPIONS! Mules win third NESCAC title in women's lacrosse

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -- You can call the Colby College women's lacrosse team New England Small College Athletic Conference champions.

The fifth-ranked Mules (15-3 overall) won their 13th straight game and third conference title with a stunning six-goal run to turn a 9-7 deficit into a 13-9 victory over Trinity College on Sunday at Middlebury College.

"The whole game I never felt worried," said Colby tri-captain Emilie Klein, who had four goals. "The entire team plays with such composure. We really focus on ourselves and we don't worry too much about who we are playing. I think that helped us in this game.

Colby clinched the automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament and will find out tonight at 9:30 who they will play next. 

The Mules won back-to-back NESCAC titles in 2008 and 2009 under head coach Karen Henning. Colby evens its record in league championship games to 3-3. The Mules fell in 2007 under former head coach Heidi Godomsky. Henning went to four straight title contests from 2008 to 2011, losing in 2010 and 2011. The loss in 2011 was a 7-1 setback to Trinity.

The Bantams (14-4) have competed in the last seven NESCAC championship games. Trinity came into today's final with a 5-1 record, winning five straight before falling 10-7 to Middlebury last year.

Trinity had an impressive individual display by junior attacker Kiley Coffey, who tied a NESCAC playoff record with seven goals. Coffey is now tied with Colby graduate Amy Campbell '10, who had seven goals in a quarterfinal game in 2009. Campbell also held the tourney record of 13 goals, but Coffey surpassed that mark with 17 goals in three playoff games.

Colby's six-goal run was ignited by winning draw controls. The Mules had a 15-9 advantage for the game, but Colby won five of the last six draw controls in the second half. The Mules also had success on draws against Middlebury in a semifinal victory.

"Having more than one person who can take the draw has been big for us the last two games," said Colby tri-captain Georgia Lubrano. "They talk to each other and figure out who might have the best chance to win a draw.  We also have girls around the circle who hustle and put everything on the line to get that ball.

Coffey scored her seventh goal with 17:39 remaining to give the Bantams a 9-7 lead. Gemma Bready, who had her best collegiate game, started the Colby scoring run at 14:49. Bready had two goals, five draw controls, two caused turnovers, and two ground balls.

"Gemma has been playing like this all year long," Henning said. "She doesn't get all the publicity, but everyone on this team knows how important she is to us."

After a draw control win by Grace Crowell, Sasha Fritts scored just 56 seconds later to tie the game at 9-9. Fritts had two goals and three assists, with two coming on the final two goals of the game. 

The next draw control was won by Kendall Smith and she turned it into the game-winning goal only 38 seconds after Fritts' goal. Smith, who had three goals and one assist, tallied off a free-position shot with 13:15 remaining.

Crowell won another draw control and Smith scored her second straight goal with 12:31 remaining for an 11-9 margin. Madeleine Hatch was to the left of the goal and was eyeing Smith in front. Smith made a slight adjustment to create space and Hatch found her for the goal.

Klein won the next draw control, but the draw did not lead to a Colby goal. Trinity had a chance to cut the margin to one goal, but Klein forced a turnover with 11:47 to play. Klein, the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year, then scored off an assist from Fritts with 10:45 remaining for a 12-9 lead.

Colby scored five goals in a span of 4:04 to take the three-goal margin. The Bantams finally won a draw control only to see Colby All-American defender Jackie Brokaw cause a turnover with 10:10 remaining. 

The Mules decided to spread out the field and did an excellent job killing valuable minutes off the clock. Hatch closed out the scoring with a low shot off a feed from Fritts with 6:01 left.

The rest of the game was turnovers for both teams. Lubrano had a caused turnover with 1:14 to play.

The Mules got off to a solid start for the second day in a row. Colby led 2-1 and 3-2 before Trinity scored two straight goals for a 4-3 lead with 6:34 remaining to intermission. Klein scored off a free-position shot with 2:27 to go, but Coffey scored unassisted on a power move to the goal with 22 seconds to play for a 5-4 Bantam lead at the break.

Klein, an All-NESCAC First Team selection, had three draw controls and two caused turnovers to go with her four goals. Crowell had four draw controls and had a free-position score in the first half. Brokaw had four caused turnovers and Kelsey Otley had three ground balls and one caused turnover.

Izzy Scribano had four saves to earn the win in goal. Zoe Ferguson, an All-NESCAC First Team pick, also made four saves.

Henning improved her coaching record at Colby to 135-46 in 10 seasons. She received some motivating help for her team from former captain and All-American defender Jamie Enos '08, who led the first NESCAC title team from 2008. Enos wrote a letter to the team after Saturday's semifinal win over Middlebury.

"We read Jamie's entire letter to the team," Henning said. "She wrote a lot about trusting each other and trusting our preparation that got us to this point. She also talked about how the entire CWL family was rooting for us and watching the webcast from all over the country."

The current players and the former players had a day no one will soon forget.

2017 NESCAC Women’s Lacrosse Championship

Saturday, April 29 at Higher Seeds  

Quarterfinal Games

Colby 8, Wesleyan 7, OT

Trinity 19, Tufts 10

Hamilton 12, Bowdoin 9

Middlebury 8, Amherst 7

Saturday, May 6 at Middlebury

Semifinal Games

Colby 10, Middlebury 9

Trinity 12, Hamilton 3

Sunday, May 7 at Middlebury

Colby 13, Trinity 9