In a back-and-forth chess match between the Dukes and Boston College Eagles, JMU lacrosse prevailed 16-15 to win its first NCAA National Championship in program history. A game that saw four lead changes — the most in a championship game in over 10 years — and 31 combined goals — the highest total in championship game history — was an exalting match to wrap up the 2018 season that saw JMU lacrosse finish 22-1 in a historic campaign for the program.
Just as they did in the national semifinals Friday, the Dukes struck first against the Eagles in the national title game, jumping out to a quick 4-1 lead within the first 11 minutes of action off of two goals from junior attacker Hanna Haven and senior attacker Morgan Hardt. Boston College had an answer for everything the Dukes threw at them, and a 4-0 run from four different Eagles gave them their first lead of the day.
A game full of runs, JMU battled back and rattled in three straight goals of their own off the sticks of senior stars Elena Romesburg and Kristen Gaudian. The two finished the day with a combined six goals on nine shots. Trading goals through the rest of the half, Boston College managed to tie things up with 51 seconds remaining and went to the locker room tied at 8 game after 30 minutes of action.
"It’s the national championship game, we want it to be close and you want it to be a dogfight," redshirt freshman Molly Dougherty told reporters after the game. "Give credit to Boston College, they didn't give up. They had a lot of fight in them, some great players and very great shooters, but we just came out and we were ready to face them."
The Eagles struck first in the second half, scoring two goals in the opening four minutes to give them their biggest lead of the afternoon. Boston College would hold that advantage for just over four minutes before goals from Haven and sophomore attacker Maddie McDaniel tied the game at 10-10. From that point on, the Dukes wouldn’t look back, as six goals in the final 17:21 of action held off small runs from the Eagles and resulted in the one-goal victory.
While the Eagles were breaking through JMU’s zone defense with ease for a majority of the game, the defensive unit tightened up when JMU senior defender Corrine Schmidt was forced out of the game after two yellow cards. Playing for their teammate caged up on the sideline, the defense went over 13 minutes before giving up a goal at the 12-minute mark. Boasting the sixth-best scoring defense in the nation, JMU’s ability to handle pressure from Sam Apuzzo and the nation’s 11th-best scoring offense proved the difference maker in a tightly contested battle.
"I think that the defense came up huge for us and those little mistakes that BC did make we ended up capitalizing on them and I think it just shows how strong our defense is as a unit," Warden told reporters after the game. "And then our attack just went off and finished their shots."
The Dukes finished the season at 22-1 — their best mark in school history — and were the winners of the 2018 CAA Championship earlier in May. Seniors Shannon Quinlan, Gaudian, Annie Dell, Schmidt, Katie Kerrigan, Hardt, Rebecca Tooker, Warden and Romesburg finish their careers as the winningest class in program history — earning 61 wins in their four-year span. Head coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe finished the season with her 201st career win as a head coach, her 151st at the helm for the Dukes. The world of women’s lacrosse has now zeroed in on the Dukes as the team to beat next season, but for now, the Dukes will stay dancing as national champions.
"It's so surreal that this is actually happening," Gaudian told reports after the game. "But it just shows all of our hard work the last four years is finally paying off. It's really big for lacrosse in general and the fact that JMU was ranked 17th in preseason and now we just won the national championship is pretty incredible."
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