Cardinals host Crusaders Saturday in conference title game

Cardinals host Crusaders Saturday in conference title game

WASHINGTON – On Saturday, the CUA women's lacrosse team will look to remain perfect in the Landmark Conference Tournament, when the top-seeded Cardinals play host to No. 2 Susquehanna in the 2012 conference championship game.  CUA held off Scranton 14-11 in the semifinals, while the Crusaders defeated Drew 18-5.

CUA has been on a tear of late, winning six straight and 11 of its last 12.  During that time, the Cardinals have beaten five conference opponents, including Susquehanna on April 14 in Selinsgrove, Pa.

In Wednesday's semifinal victory, Mary Swarthout and Meghan Brady led the CUA offense with three goals each, while Mallory Vogel and Lindsay Brophy added two apiece.  Vogel also handed out three assists, while Brophy dished out two.

The Cardinals jumped out to a 5-1 lead on the Royals, only to see them pull within 7-5 at halftime.  In the second half, CUA opened up a 9-5 advantage, but again Scranton battled back to get within 11-10 with 7:32 remaining.  Unfazed, CUA scored three of the game's final four goals to earn its fifth straight trip to the title match.

Swarthout leads CUA this season with 56 goals and 81 points, while Brady has scored 39 goals and Vogel has netted 38.  Swarthout and Vogel rank one-two in assists with 25 and 23, respectively, while Swarthout is the team leader in ground balls (60), draw controls (106) and caused turnovers (32).

Freshman Tricia Pehnke got the start in goal for the Cardinals on Wednesday and sent back seven shots, before Yasmeen Ajdari came on for the second half and made three saves.

Pehnke has made 48 saves in 391 minutes of action this season, while Ajdari has totaled 43 saves in 359 minutes.

Susquehanna is having a historic season in 2012, with this being its first berth in the Landmark Conference Tournament.  The Crusaders are 15-1 overall on the year, with the lone loss coming to CUA last month.

Susquehanna handled Drew rather easily in the semifinals, racing out to a 13-3 lead at halftime, and never looking back from there.

The Crusaders, who are 8-0 away from home this season, are led on offense by Emma Ehler with 55 goals and 15 assists, with Michelle McGinniss (44 goals) and Brynn Reid (40 goals) next in line.

McGinniss paces the squad in draw controls with 127 and ground balls with 64, and she shares the team lead in caused turnovers with Marra Landino, with 18 apiece.

Emily Stankaitis is the team's top goalkeeper, with 178 saves in 916 minutes of action.  She has sent back 57.8% of the shots she has faced this season and enters Saturday's game with an 8.51 goals against average.

In CUA's previous four championship game appearances, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 57-34.  Included in there are a pair of one-goal wins, including last season when CUA topped Drew 12-11.

Saturday's championship game gets underway at 1 p.m. on Saturday from inside Cardinal Stadium.  There will be live video and stats available.