Blanchette leads 'Cats into title game with five points
BALTIMORE, Md. - Kristin Blanchette (Sudbury, Mass.) recorded five points with three goals and two assists to lead the fourth-seeded University of New Hampshire women's lacrosse team to a 12-5 victory against top-seeded University of Maryland-Baltimore County in Friday's America East semifinal game at UMBC Stadium.
UNH, in its conference-record ninth consecutive America East Championship, improved to 11-6 overall to advance to the title game for the fifth straight year and will play the winner of the second semifinal -- Boston University vs. Stony Brook University -- May 7 (3:30 p.m.) with an NCAA tournament automatic berth at stake. UMBC, defeated 20-9 by the Wildcats in the regular season, ends the year at 10-8.
UNH's Katie Leland (Timonium, Md.) scored four goals to increase her career total to 177, one less than Jessie Groszkowski's school record of 178. Ashley Milley (Sudbury, Mass.) recorded three saves while UMBC counterpart Susie Sweeney stopped five shots.
Following a slow start by both teams, UNH built a 4-0 lead. Leland opened the scoring with an unassisted tally at 6:04. Sarah Von Bargen (East Setauket, N.Y.) netted a free-position goal at 8:23 and Alexa Webster (Aurora, Colo.; two goals), off a pass from Blanchette, scored 50 seconds later to give the Wildcats a 3-0 advantage. Blanchette struck at 10:40, prompting UMBC to call time out.
The Retrievers got into the scoring column on Jennifer Kasper's goal at 14:39 to trim the deficit to 4-1. The goal ended a scoreless streak of 34:24 vs. the 'Cats dating back to the regular-season matchup in which UNH scored 14 consecutive goals.
New Hampshire held the host team scoreless the remainder of the first half, however, and extended its lead to 7-1 before halftime. Leland's second tally of the game, from close range off a feed from Blanchette, gave the 'Cats a 5-1 lead at 20:06. Moira Talbot (Marblehead, Mass.) scored the team's second free-position goal of the game at 24:15 for a 6-1 advantage and Blanchette's second tally capped the first-half scoring at 27:17.
UMBC's Kelly Fahey trimmed the margin to 7-2 at 35:11. UNH, which utilized a patient perimeter offense in the second half, netted goals 27 seconds apart on strikes by Ashley Blake (Amherst, N.H.) - her first of the season - at 46:27 and Blanchette at 46:54. Kelly Fiorani pulled the Retrievers within 9-3 at 48:11.
Webster's second goal of the game at 50:09 sparked a 3-0 Wildcat spurt that continued with Leland's 50th goal of the season at 51:50 and her fourth tally of the game at 55:17 gave UNH a 12-3 advantage.
UMBC closed the game scoring with tallies by Julie Libertini (at 56:53) and Ali Levendusky (57:38).