HAMDEN, Conn. - Led by senior Lauren Matuszczak's (East Longmeadow, Mass.) career-high 10 point game, the No. 1-seeded Quinnipiac women's lacrosse team defeated No. 4-seeded Sacred Heart on Friday to earn a spot in the Northeast Conference Championship Game on Sunday afternoon. With the win, Quinnipiac returns to the NEC Championship Game for the fourth-consecutive season and will face No. 3-seed Mount St. Mary's, which defeated No. 2-seed Robert Morris, 13-8, in the second semifinals contest of the day at Quinnipiac Field Hockey & Lacrosse Turf Field. Quinnipiac improves to 12-4 on the season, while Sacred Heart finishes its year with a 6-11 overall record.
"We really played great from the first whistle today," head coach Danie Caro said. "We controlled the tempo, played with discipline, and capitalized on our opportunities. I'm very proud of how hard everyone worked."
With four goals and six assists, Matuszczak surpasses her previous career-high of both points in a game (seven) and assists in a game (four), both set on Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011 against Mount St. Mary's.
"Buddy was a rock star for us today," said Caro. "She is on a mission to deliver a Championship, and really stepped up and lead the team."
The Bobcats were also led offensively by junior Jennifer Skipper (Centerport, N.Y.) who tallied a career high six points on (also a career-high) five goals and one assist.
"Skip had one of the best games of her career today," said Caro. "She always hustles and makes plays, but today she put points on the board for us too."
Junior Devon Gibney (Hopkinton, Mass.) added five points on two goals and three assists, while junior Marissa Caroleo (North Babylon, N.Y.) netted three goals and one assist in the game.
"Devon and Marissa were excellent in the midfield today," said Caro. They both made plays on offense and defense and really controlled the field between the restraining lines."
Senior Christine Sinnigen (Sudbury, Mass.) and sophomore Lianne Toomey (Hicksville, N.Y.) had matching scoring lines, scoring two goals and one assist apiece.
"Christine and Lianne were both solid on offense," said Caro. "They did a great job settling the ball and making plays when they had the chance to."
Caroleo, Toomey and senior Kaitlyn Kelly (North Massapequa, N.Y.) all shared a team-high three ground balls on the afternoon, while Matuszczak earned a team-high four draw controls. Caroleo was also the team-leader with two caused turnovers in the game.
"Our low defense played well, limiting the opportunities Sacred Heart had on attack," said Caro. "Kaitlyn, Kiera Carey, Kelley McDonough, and Chelsea Guerrera all worked well together and really played good helping defense."
Sophomore goalie Noelle Martello (Westbury, N.Y.) turned away 13 of 22 shots on the afternoon, while her counterpart, Megan Pepe, made seven saves for Sacred Heart.
"Noelle was very solid today," said Caro. "She did a great job stopping the ball, and was very effective initiating our offensive transition."
The Pioneers were led by Aurelie Pluijmakers two goals and one assist, while Kate Kmoitek (two goals) and Alyssa Dorsey (one goal, one assist) each tallied two points. Kelsey Russo, Jessica Ingrilli, Shelby Vaccaro, and Katie Gerhard each contributed one point on the afternoon.
The Bobcats jumped out to an early 3-0 lead just under six minutes into the contest. Caroleo netted two goals to begin the game, while Sinnigen added her first. After Sacred Heart scored two of the next three goals, Quinnipiac went on its longest scoring run of the game, tallying five goals to take an 9-2 lead with 6:22 remaining in the first half. Skipper scored twice, while Matuszczak, Toomey and Gibney each potted one apiece. Sacred Heart finished the first half on a two-goal scoring streak to bring the score to 9-4 at halftime.
Quinnipiac once again found the back of the net shortly after the second half whistle, adding two more goals on Sinnigen and Matuszczak scores, to extend its lead to 11-4 with 28:19 remaining in the game. Following a Pioneer goal, the Bobcats would net the next four goals, receiving two from Skipper, one from Matuszczak and one from Caroleo.
Sacred Heart would tally its sixth goal of the game with 9:33 remaining in the second half, before Toomey added her second goal of the contest. After Sacred Heart finished its scoring with three straight goals, Quinnipiac added two more tallies on goals from Matuszczak and Skipper to give the game its final score, 18-9.
Quinnipiac returns to action on Sunday, May 1 when it takes on No. 3 Mount St. Mary's in the NEC Championship game at 12 p.m.