Second Half Effort Leads Mustangs to Second-Straight Title Game

Second Half Effort Leads Mustangs to Second-Straight Title Game

OWINGS MILLS, Md. - Led by five goals from junior Kathryn Merrick and nine second half saves by junior Leanne Bittner, the second-seeded Stevenson women's lacrosse team outscored third-seeded Lebanon Valley 7-4 in the second half en route to a 13-10 victory in the 2014 Women's Lacrosse Commonwealth Conference Semifinals Thursday afternoon at Mustang Stadium.

With the win, the Mustangs (12-5) advance to their second-straight appearance in the Commonwealth Conference Championship and second championship game in program history and will face top-seeded Messiah on Saturday, May 3 beginning at 1:00 p.m.

The Dutchmen (13-4) took an early 2-0 lead, including a goal 11 seconds into the contest as Anna Pagels took the opening draw straight to the cage.

After the team's traded free-position goals, Stevenson scored three-straight including two by Merrick, with the last giving the Mustangs their first lead of the game at 4-3.

Jenny Simensky tied the game at four after her shot trickled in after the initial save. Lebanon Valley retook the lead after Alyse Binghman scored on a dish from Bailey Benz, the conference player of the year.

The Mustangs tied the game for the fourth time after Carli Bafford collected her free-position shot off the pipe for her sixth goal of the year. The teams were a combined 2-for-5 on free-position shots in the first half and 2-for-9 for the game.

Both teams had a chance to go ahead before the break as Sam Boyce had her shot blocked in front of the Mustang goal before Shelby Morris denied a shot by Tori Wagner.

Stevenson started the second half on a 3-0 run with goals by Merrick and seniors Leah Warner and Marissa Meiklejohn. The trio has combined for 207 points this season, including 143 goals.

Pagels scored another goal off the draw control, this time to break a 4-0 Mustang run to cut the deficit to two. Following a goal by Warner, Lebanon Valley again cut its deficit to two after Mel Modrick netted her 50th goal of the year.

The Mustangs used a 3-0 run to give them their largest lead of the game at five, including a goal by Meiklejohn who redirected a pass from freshman Rachael Akshar for a 13-8 lead. Akshar now has two assists from her defensive position this season.

Modrick, who finishes the season with a team leading 52 goals, would add her fourth and fifth goals of the game in the final two minutes. The Dutchmen's leading scorer and first team all-conference selection, Boyce, was held without a point for the first time this season.

Bittner finished with 12 saves, one shy of her career-high while also totaling counterpart Morris also had 12.

Warner finished with four points on three goals and one assist while senior Mandy Marston totaled one goal and one assist to total her 100th career point. She now has 101 in four seasons.

In addition to her five goals, Merrick also led the team with three draw controls. Junior Meg Gill totaled one ground ball and one caused turnover, which ties the school record with 84 career caused turnovers.

The Mustangs dropped their lone conference game this season to the Falcons, 14-8 on Apr. 22 in Grantham, Pa.