CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Down but never out, Elon University women’s lacrosse put together a second-half comeback attempt but fell just short in its NCAA Tournament debut Friday afternoon, May 12, in an 11-9 loss to No. 13 Virginia at Fetzer Field.
The loss puts Elon at 13-7 at the conclusion of its fourth year of competition, standing as the most wins in a season in program history. Virginia advances to Sunday’s Round of 16 matchup at 1 p.m. against second-seeded North Carolina.
Seven of Elon’s nine goals Friday were scored by players coming off the bench. Jacie Cooper notched her second-career hat trick with three goals on five shots. It marks the first time she’s scored three in a game since her collegiate debut in 2015 against Kennesaw State. Shelby Scanlin and Melissa Birdsell each tallied twice on the day while Nicole Sinacori and Abby Godfrey scored once. Sinacori also added two assists and two ground balls. In the cage, Rachel Ramirez had seven saves, seven ground balls and three caused turnovers.
UVA was led by Maggie Jackson’s four goals, two ground balls and a draw control while Avery Shoemaker finished with three goals and an assist with a ground ball, caused turnover and two draw controls. Sammy Mueller scored once, but tied Ramirez for a game-high seven ground balls with one caused turnover. Kelly Reese, Besser Dyson and Posey Valis each had at least two points with all three scoring once and adding at least one assist. Reese finished with three points thanks to her goal and two assists. Rachel Vander Kolk had a solid game with 12 saves and three ground balls.
Virginia scored four goals in the opening 10 minutes to jump on the Phoenix out of the gate, but Elon’s defense clamped down and didn’t allow another goal over the course of the next 15-plus minutes. In that time, Sinacori tallied Elon’s first NCAA Tournament goal with 15:44 to play, but it was the only goal during the scoreless UVA stretch the Phoenix could put on the board.
Down the stretch in the first half, Jackson added her second of the opening half with 4:42 to go, but Cooper cut the UVA lead down to three with 2:33 left in the half to send it to halftime at 5-2.
Out of the break with Elon down a player after Godfrey was called for a yellow card in the closing seconds of the first half, Virginia found the back of the net three times to extend the advantage to 8-2. From there, the Phoenix came alive in scoring seven goals over the final 22:31 and cut the lead down multiple times.
Cooper started the scoring with 22:31 left and while Shoemaker scored to make it a six-goal game again at 9-3, Elon put three in a row on the board with another one from Cooper and two from Scanlin to make it 9-6 with 9:12 to play. After two Virginia goals in less than a minute, the Cavaliers held an 11-6 lead with 6:44 to play, but Godfrey answered with her 24th goal of the year to bring the lead down to four at 11-7 with 6:12 to go.
Less than two minutes later, Birdsell scored with 4:44 to play, bringing Elon within three, the closest margin since halftime. Down the stretch, though, Virginia’s defense held Elon at bay and the Phoenix couldn’t find the back of the net again until Birdsell scored her second goal of the game with 10.3 seconds to play.
Sloane Kessler assisted on both of Birdsell’s goals in the closing minutes. With the two assists, she broke her own program record for most in a single season, finishing the year with 24.
– Of the starting 12 players, only four of them are seniors. All nine of Elon’s goals were scored by non-seniors. Cooper, a sophomore, led the Phoenix with three and Birdsell, a freshman, combined for more than 50 percent of Elon’s offensive output Friday.
– For just the second time this year, Stephanie Asher was held scoreless in a game. Both games she did not score came at Fetzer Field after going without a goal back on March 14 against North Carolina.
– Finishing with 69 ground balls this year, Rachel Ramirez finished fourth for most ground balls in a single season in CAA history. She entered the game eighth in the league and jumped four players. She falls just short of the Top 3, set by JMU’s Lisa Staedt (76) in 2003, Hofstra’s Bridget Eder (74) in 2004 and Drexel’s Katrina Rand (70) in 2003.
– Elon outshot Virginia 37-24 on the day. Entering the game, Elon was 11-2 when it outshot its opponent.