BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – A series of fouls and yellow cards allowed Fitchburg State University to outscore Massachusetts Maritime Academy 7-2 in the second half and defeat the Buccaneers 9-4 in the last women's lacrosse game of 2018 in Clean Harbors Stadium. In the loss, seniors Mikayla Correia and Stephanie Hunt played their final home contests of illustrious four-year careers.
Hunt got the Buccaneers on the board quickly after a groundball pickup by Correia. A Falcon foul led to a free possession score and Hunt netted No. 32 on the season after only 93 seconds.
The next ten minutes saw both sides take shots on goals in what was an evenly controlled game. Carrie Long forced a Hunt turnover to set up the first FSU goal, which came from Anna Gagnon-Burch to Sarah Napolitano at 18:06. Only 26 seconds later, Tracy Long fed Gagnon-Burch after a Maritime foul.
Both sides fought hard for the next 16 minutes and Maritime finally broke through on as Hunt and Sullivan teamed up for the umpteenth time this year. The net-finder came at 1:49 left in the first half and the score remained knotted at two when the buzzer rang. However, just beforehand, Hunt was issued a yellow card, her second of the game, and was sent off.
The second opened positively for the Buccaneers as Cammi Balentine's free possession shot rebounded to Casey Sullivan, who got the ball to Christine Smith. Smith, only in her first year of university lacrosse, found Anna Deely for the go-ahead goal at 27:44 in the second. The marker was her 32nd on the campaign, while Smith's helper was her sixth on the season, tied for sixth all-time among rookies.
Fitchburg answered quickly, however, putting heavy pressure on Correia to force a turnover. Rebecca Fisher dished to Carrie Long for the equalizer at 25:21.
Both sides had their chances in the next seven minutes, but it was a yellow card on Balentine that tipped the scales. The Falcons immediately capitalized, with Madison Alves scoring twice in the two minutes that she was sent off, but the penalty was an unreleasable one, which meant Balentine could not re-enter until a whistle was blown. With more than two minutes elapsed but no whistle, the visitors scored a third goal with the one-player advantage, this time from Tracy Long via Sarah Napolitano.
The Buccaneers, now down 6-3, immediately got back to fighting, with a succession of turnovers leading to a combination to which Maritime fans ought to enjoy for several seasons, as Deely whipped the ball into Sullivan, who fired home for the goal. It was her 46th of the season, adding to her all-time mark.
The ensuing seven minutes saw the fouls on MMA continue to rack up, resulting in constant pressure by Fitchburg on the host's defence. FSU would finally break through as the whistles against Maritime became almost constant, scoring three goals in exactly five minutes from 7:42 remaining.
Neither side saw much of goal in the concluding three minutes and the final score read 9-4 in Fitchburg favour. With groundballs (27-22 in the visitors' favour) and turnovers (29-28) fairly even, the statistic of note came on the whistle. Not only did MMA have five yellow cards, by far the most in a game this year, but it was blown up for 33 fouls against a mere three for the Falcons.
"When you lose your top scorer, it is hard to recover. It was still close, but we do not have the depth that Fitchburg does," explained Head Coach Marc Palombo. "However, we didn't play like we played against MCLA. Those [foul] calls are a factor of long season and no subs."
"The first half was 30 minutes where we could have won even though we weren't playing that well. It was 2-2 at half and I thought we had a half to get it done."
The difference in fouls contributed to a 31-11 shot advantage and eight free possession shots for FSU. Alves scored four, putting 5-of-7 shot on goal. Carrie Long was an ever-present force for the Falcones, scoring once, collecting a game-high seven groundballs and five draw controls, and forcing five turnovers while committing only two.
Anna Deely played a resilient game as she stepped up to control the midfield in Hunt's absence, earning four draw controls and picking up three groundballs and two points. Sullivan could only shoot four times in the game, putting all four on target and scoring twice. She forced two turnovers as part of the Buccaneers' 12 caused miscues, tied for 10th-best ever in a game.
Mikayla Correia (6-8) was superb in goal, saving 12 shots and picking up five groundballs. Marguerite Belcher (8-8) allowed just four goals as the Bucs could only put six on frame.
The season will conclude on Sunday in a rescheduled contest from Wednesday at Framingham State (13-2, 4-1 MASCAC). The contest starts at noon for the 6-8, 1-5 Buccaneers.
Gabriel Fidler, Sports Information Associate