May 3, 2014

Thomas Stunned by Castleton in NAC Championship, 10-9

CASTLETON, VT  – Thomas College fell to Castleton State College, 10-9, in the North Atlantic Conference (NAC) Women's Lacrosse Championship on Saturday night. The Terriers, who came back from a 7-4 halftime deficit, outscored the Spartans 5-3 in the closing half, but Castleton's Grace Johnson scored at the buzzer to give the Spartans their third consecutive NAC Championship.

Jennifer Day led the Thomas scoring finishing with five goals, while Brittany Premo scored three, and also registered her 100th career point as a Terrier. Miranda Tinsman notched a goal and an assist in the loss.

Grace Johnson netted the game-winner, but Brandi Whittemore and Kate Auer carried the offensive load for the Spartans, each with three points. Whittemore netted three goals while Auer scored twice and dished off an assist.

The Spartans jumped on the visiting Terriers in the first half, opening the game on a 5-1 run. It took Castleton 9:54 to score, but when they finally cracked the seal of the goal it jumpstarted the offense. MaddyDaCosta put the home team on the board, followed by a Brandi Whittemore goal 1:06 later to give the squad a 2-0 lead. Sarah Clark added a free position goal with 16:56 left to make it 3-0.

Premo made an impressive play to put the Terriers on the board. The midfielder scooped up a groundball in the defensive end, sprinted full field and buried a shot into the corner of the net to cut into the Castleton lead with 11:06 left in the first.

After Premo's score, the Spartans tallied two straight to extend their lead to 5-1. Auer scored her first goal of the day on a free position shot and then found Whittemore to put the squad ahead by four.

Over the next 6:30, Thomas went on a 3-1 run, cutting the Castleton lead to just two goals. Erin Nelligan found Day in front for a goal. After a Castleton goal by Whittemore, Day and Tinsman rattled off a pair of goal to make the score 6-4.

With time winding down and the Terriers gaining momentum, Blake Wardwell stepped up, burying a goal with 22 seconds left to give the Spartans a three-goal advantage and momentum heading into the halftime break.

In the second half, the first 13 minutes went scoreless, but Premo cashed in on a free position shot with 16:56 left to make it 7-5. Jennifer Day followed just under three minutes later to cut the Castleton lead to one goal.

Castleton responded with a pair of goals, rebuilding their lead to three goals. Maddy DaCosta scored her second goal of the evening, followed by Auer's second of the night to give the Spartans a 9-6 lead with 9:57 remaining in the game.

In the next 9:30, Thomas went on a 3-0 run to tie the game. Premo and Day each scored to make it 9-8 with 6:44 left. With time winding down, Thomas needed a score and turned to the hot hand to get the job down. In the final minute of play the Terriers gave the ball to Jennifer Day and let her work. The junior beat a Castleton defender and scored to tie the game with 30 seconds left.

The Terriers earned possession on the next draw control, but turned the ball over in the Castleton defensive zone with 9.1 seconds left. That is when the magic began for the Spartans.

Tiffany Danyow connected a pass to Maddy DaCosta at midfield who worked the ball forward to a wide-open Kim Gosselin. The Castleton assists leader looked forward and found Grace Johnson in space near the crease, sailed the ball to her, and Johnson quick-sticked the ball past the Thomas goalie for the game-winner as time expired.

Crystal Leavitt played a fantastic defensive game for the Terriers, earning six caused turnovers and four ground balls. Nelligan finished with a team-high five ground balls for Thomas. Allie McCarthy took the loss in net for the visitors despite making 16 saves.

Emilee Maher finished with a game-high seven caused turnovers and Danyow scooped a team-best six ground balls in the Spartan defensive effort. Danyow and Wardwell each finished with three caused turnovers for the Spartans as well. Rachel Bombardier made seven saves in the win as Castleton earned their third straight conference crown.

Castleton entered the contest undefeated in NAC play over the past three years, and the 10-9 victory tonight was the closest game for the Spartans against a conference opponent over that span.
For seniors Jasmine Bishop, Katlyn Cash, Morgan Hutchins, Jillian Lambert, Nora Rauch, and Tinsman, this game marks the end of their collegiate careers. Over the span of the last four seasons they have left their mark in Thomas women's lacrosse program history, making it to the NAC Finals three out of four years, and nearly shattering every program record along the way.