By Chris McManes
WASHINGTON – How good is the No. 10 Catholic University women's lacrosse team? Its two victories in the NCAA Tournament have come against teams that entered the games with a combined record of 35-2.
It didn't matter.
On Saturday, in a regional semifinal at the SUNY Cortland (N.Y.) Stadium Complex, CUA dispatched previously unbeaten Mount Union, 21-8. The Cards (16-3) will face No. 2 Cortland State on Sunday for the opportunity to go to their first Final Four. The Red Dragons improved to 19-1 with a 21-2 victory over Augustana.
Cortland handed CUA its first loss of the year, 19-12, at Cardinal Stadium. Game time is 1 p.m.
"Cortland is a phenomenal team," CUA Coach Meghan McDonogh said. "We're excited to have another opportunity to play them."
The Cardinals, who have reached the regional finals four times, trailed only once Saturday. The contest was tied at 4 before the Cards closed the first half with nine straight goals to seize a 13-4 halftime lead.
"We realized we were in a fight and needed to focus a little more," McDonogh said.
Laura Dunn (three goals, two assists) and Madeline Wilson (two goals, three assists) tallied five points apiece to pace the CUA offense. Ana Brandenburg scored four goals, and Anna Stumme collected three goals and an assist.
Freshman Nicollete Crisalli found the back of the net three times, and All-Region honoree Lindsay Brophy scored twice and assisted on another. Alexis Bosilovic added a goal and two assists for the Cardinals, who have won eight straight. CUA's offense has generated 65 goals in its past three games.
The Purple Raiders came into the game with an unblemished 19-0 record. Their victory total and winning percentage (.950) are both program highs.
The Cards probably played a tougher schedule, which helped toughen them up for NCAA playoff games in which one loss sends you packing. CUA downed Salisbury – top-ranked at the time – by an overtime goal to open the season and fell to No. 3 Franklin & Marshall, 14-9.
"I think there's a lot of pressure on a team that is undefeated," McDonogh said. "And the good thing about losses is that you can learn from them. We used that to our advantage, and having the opportunity to be the first team to beat someone was a motivating factor.
"Our players take pride in the schedule that we play, and I think they wanted to show what they had learned."
Wilson scored to break the 4-all tie on a feed from Bosilovic with 18:52 left before the break. Clair Schmitzer followed with a free position goal after taking a pass from Brophy to make it 7-4. Dunn sandwiched two net-finders around one by Crisalli, and Stumme scored twice before assisting Wilson's final goal of the half to put the Cards up by nine.
Both of Stumme's goals came after she won the draw. On the first one, she charged downfield and scored unassisted. The second one came on a free position shot. The sophomore midfielder was Friday named third-team All-American.
"She turned in an All-American performance for us," McDonogh said. "We definitely saw a huge momentum shift happen, and our team really does draw off of her energy. Most of her goals are definitely of the highlight-reel variety."
Bosilovic and Brophy extended the Cardinal run to 11-0 by scoring the first two goals of the second half in man-up situations.
For Mount Union, from Alliance, Ohio, Emily Bergert had two goals and an assist, and Katherine Doraty scored twice.
CUA's All-Region goalkeeper Patricia Pehnke played 56:45 and stopped seven shots. The Cards out-shot the Purple Raiders 46-18 and had a 17-14 edge on draw controls.
Because CUA's seniors missed graduation today on campus, they had their own commencement on the field after the game.
"Our seniors were freshmen when they saw our 2012 seniors do the same thing," McDonogh said. "I'm glad they were able to experience it themselves."
Cortland controlled 21 draws to the Cards' 11 when the two teams met on March 16.
"We need to value possession a little bit more," McDonogh said. "Last game, we didn't have quite as much success on the draw, and we made some mental errors out of frustration.
"We need to play smart and continue to play together. I think we're playing some of the best lacrosse that we've played this season. We need to use that momentum and hopefully a little boost of adrenaline, as well."