CONWAY, S.C. – For the third straight season – and the sixth time in seven years – the Jacksonville University women’s lacrosse team have been crowned the ASUN Conference women’s lacrosse regular season and tournament champions. The #1 seed Dolphins held on despite a second-half rally from #2 Liberty, and came away victorious with a 20-18 win for JU’s sixth automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, Saturday afternoon at Coastal Carolina’s Brooks Stadium.
With 11 draw controls to her credit, Tournament MVP and freshman Molly Brock led the way with the third-most draws won in a single-game in program history. The Rockville, Md. native also totaled six points behind four goals and two assists. Fellow All-Tournament Team selection, graduate student Hayley Ciklin posted seven point (5 goals, 2 assists), along with two ground balls and a team-high three caused turnovers in the effort.
“We had a lot of high performers in this tournament. We had huge individual plays from by Dayna Martinetto, that picked us up after a big run by Liberty late in the game. That’s what champions do – they make plays when they are needed. This team is resilient. Playing a 14-win team in a title game and growing a huge lead, only to see that team play their heart out and claw back into the game … a lesser team would not have finished that game,” credited Associate Head Coach Paul McCordfollowing the win.
“This is a young team with three underclassmen all on the All-Tournament Team and they played with heart even when mistakes were made. They hung tough; Liberty punched us hard in the second half. We are all so proud of the team for earning this win. Hats off to Liberty; they are an outstanding team. Being able to take two wins from them was a great accomplishment.”
“It was important for me to have a positive mindset the entire game, even when Liberty was catching up. I had to stay focused on my job and what I needed to do in order to keep us in the lead,” added Brock. “I knew what my team needed me to do and the times I needed to step up and make important plays. The draw is what gave us the winning edge because getting possession was crucial in order to make the plays we needed to get the ball in th back of the net.”
Along with Brock and Ciklin, senior captain Lillie Miller and sophomores Jenny Kinsey and Alyssa Arnold were also named to the All-Tournament Team. Miller posted a hat trick, including a pair of free-position goals, won five draws, and caused a turnover, while Kinsey and Arnold recorded four points each – both with three goals and one assist.
“I could not be more proud of this team. We’ve grown so much this year and to see everyone step up and play some of the best lacrosse we’ve play all year was awesome. Our team has so much depth that allows us to constantly push our pace on opponents, which is key to our success. It’s not about individual success on our team; we play with the team goal in mind. This tournament showed how resilient this team is and how much love this team has for each other,” commented Miller.
Jacksonville used a pair of 4-0 runs to claim a 14-6 advantage at halftime. During those runs, Arnold and Miller scored twice, while Ciklin notched three of her seven points. Following the break, the Flames came roaring back to give the Dolphins all they could handle.
Beginning with a 4-1 run to open the second half, Liberty worked to find a way back into the game. However, it was a 5-0 run through eight minutes (18:22 through 10:22) that brought the #2 Flames within striking distance of the #1 Dolphins, 17-15. The teams traded goals through the final 8:14 of the game as Ciklin (8:14), Brock (3:41), and Kinsey (2:12) did their part in keeping the Dolphins ahead.
“The postseason is really what we play all year long for and lately I have just been having so much fun playing with my teammates,” stated Kinsey. “We are lucky to have such a great coaching staff that prepares us so well that when it comes game time, all we have to do is play.”
With several big stops down the stretch, ASUN Freshman of the Year and Inside Lacrosse Rookie of the Year Watch List nominee Dayna Martinetto held the Flames back on the defensive end. Martinetto closed out the game with five saves and four ground balls for her 16th win on the year.
An experienced mainstay on Martinetto’s defense, senior captain Erica Beal added, “It’s such a blessing to be part of such a successful program. The consistency, the coaches’ expectations for us, our desire to go above and beyond to bring home that regular season and tournament championship, and being able to lead my team with my three other captains has been so amazing. Looking back to freshman year and all of the adversity I went through to now is so mind-blowing; I never thought I would be the person and player I am today and I can say I am so luck I get to leave with four regular season championships, three tournament championships, and great memories to fall back on.”
Liberty was led by Jenna Joyal’s six points (5g, 1a), while Brianna McCaffrey (5g) and Kayla Foster (2g, 3a) chipped in five points each. Katherine Widrick notched 10 saves between the pipes in the loss.
The Dolphins await their opponent in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Selection Show begins at 8 p.m. ET and can be viewed on ncaa.com.