East Stroudsburg, UIndy Advance to NCAA Division II Women’s Championship Game


East Stroudsburg players celebrate Friday after the Warriors' 13-12 win in overtime against previously unbeaten Queens (N.C.) in the NCAA Division II women's lacrosse semifinals at Lindenwood's Hunter Stadium in St. Charles, Mo.

The matchup for the NCAA Division II women’s lacrosse championship game Sunday is set following semifinal victories by East Stroudsburg and Indianapolis in Friday’s national semifinals in St. Charles, Missouri.

Regardless of which team wins Sunday, Division II will welcome a first-time champion. Here’s how they got there.


Last year when these two teams met in the national semifinal, Queens scored in the closing seconds of the first half to take a one-goal halftime lead, an advantage the Royals would hold throughout the second half en route to victory.

Flash forward to Friday’s rematch, and it was nearly a case of déjà vu. Junior Shannon Kingston scored as time expired in the second quarter to give Queens a one-goal halftime lead over East Stroudsburg once again.

But this time, overtime heroics by ESU’s goalie McKenzie Gaghan and freshman Sophia Graffeo ensured a different outcome for the Warriors.

With ESU playing down one player as overtime began due to a yellow card, Queens won the draw and had the first chance for sudden victory. That’s when Gaghan made her eighth and biggest save of the game, stopping a point-blank shot from Caitlin Hardin, who had already scored three times for No. 1-ranked Queens.

Gaghan’s huge save quickly triggered a transition opportunity in the other direction for the Warriors, with Maddie Heck carrying across midfield and feeding Kiki Fitzpatrick, who then found Graffeo inside the 8-meter arc. The freshman wasted little time in whistling her shot past goalie Sharn Muffett high on the stick side to lift ESU to the 13-12 win and into its first national championship game appearance.

“Thinking about all our upperclassmen who have worked so hard to get us here gave me motivation to stay calm and do what I know I can,” Graffeo said.

ESU (20-1) needed many heroes to hand Queens (21-1) its first loss of the year.

Sophomore All-American midfielder Emily Mitarotonda was once again a force at both ends of the field, scoring a game-high four goals, collecting four draw controls and contributing defensively to limit the nation’s top-scoring offense to its second-lowest output of the season.

Heck was not only pivotal in setting up the game-winning goal, but she forced the extra period by scoring her only goal of the game on a 1v1 dodge with 2:27 left to tie the score at 12.

“It’s been a great ride and I’ve loved every second of it,” said Heck, who joined the Warriors as a graduate transfer this season. “I’ve been really lucky in that they have welcomed me with open arms. This team is amazing.”

Defenders Jameson Kernaghan, Kayleigh Pokrivka and Kristen Andreychak were stellar in limiting Queens’ top scorers Kyleigh Masteran and Rebecca Kinsley to just one goal each while combining for seven caused turnovers. Queens finished with 26 turnovers in the game.

“Our defense has been the pillar all year and they really stepped up, playing man-down in overtime,” said ESU’s Xeni Barakos-Yoder, now in her seventh year as head coach at her alma mater.

For Queens, which finished as national runner-up last year, it was a bitter ending to its Division II tenure. The university is reclassifying to Division I starting July 1.

“This one hurts for sure,” Queens coach Clare Short said. “We’ve had a perfect season and we wanted two more wins. Today wasn’t our day.”


UIndy defender Kara Antonucci keeps the ball out of reach of her opponent during the Warriors’ 11-6 win over Adelphi in the NCAA Division II women’s lacrosse semifinals at Lindenwood's Hunter Stadium in St. Charles, Mo.


Two of the nation’s top defenses took center stage in the second semifinal, locking down the offenses, creating turnovers and limiting the scoring chances. The game had strong similarities to the March 16 meeting between the teams in which Adelphi prevailed 7-5.

Adelphi was making its 14th final four appearance; UIndy, its first. But in the end, that difference in experience didn’t matter. Led by defenders Kara Antonucci, Amy Vegh, Bella Shore and Mekayla Montgomery, the Greyhounds proved that the moment wasn’t too big.

Tied 4-4 at halftime following a tightly contested opening 30 minutes, the UIndy defense held Adelphi scoreless for 22 minutes and limited the Panthers to just two goals in the second half, allowing the offense time to create some separation.

Paced by two goals by sophomore Sarah Klein sandwiched around a behind-the-back goal by junior Quinn Malcolm, one of her game-high three goals, UIndy outscored Adelphi 3-0 in the third quarter on the way to an eventual 11-6 win.

“I think we knew that if we played together as a unit, we were unstoppable,” Antonucci said. “We made it our goal to have this be one of our best games, and I truly think it was.”

With the victory, UIndy (21-1) avenged its only loss of the year while also extending its school-record winning streak to 16 games.

“The toughness, both mentally and physically of our group, along with the desire and the compete level, I couldn’t be more proud,” UIndy coach James Delaney said. “No matter what, I knew they were going to find a way.”

All-American midfielder Peyton Romig added two goals, both in the fourth quarter, and two assists for UIndy. Romig also helped the Greyhounds to a 14-5 edge in draw controls.

Kerrin Heuser and Christina McCabe finished with two goals each for Adelphi (18-3), which tallied its lowest scoring output of the season.

“You have to give them credit, they were the better team out there today,” Adelphi coach Pat McCabe said. “They executed their plan better than we did.”


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