As fast as The Rock’s playoff dreams came true, they disappeared. SRU lacrosse (12-6, 7-5) could not hold off No. 19 Indiana (Pa.) (11-6, 9-3) in its first appearance in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) tournament since its 2007 reinstatement.
The 5-4 loss is the team’s fourth to ranked opponents by less than three goals, and its second to the Crimson Hawks.
“I think its tough” Rock head coach Emily Hopkins said. “You’re so close. You’re right there within one goal.”
In a low scoring game, the Crimson Hawks dominated The Rock leaving them scoreless for the majority of the first half.
IUP scored only three unanswered goals in the opening 27 minutes of the game.
The goals came from three different players, but were all assisted by freshman attacker Kelly Shields.
With only 2:20 remaining, SRU’s junior attacker Bre Vodde gave The Rock its first score of the contest before going into the second half.
Up 3-1, The Crimson Hawks would score within the opening three minutes of the half with yet another Shields-assisted goal, her last of the night.
What looked as if could possibly be a repeat of the second half was denied by SRU’s lead scorer, redshirt sophomore Tia Torchia.
Torchia, The Rocket’s April Athlete of the Month, had two back-to-back goals in a little over a minute bringing The Rock within two once again.
The two rivals battled for nearly 20 scoreless minutes in a defensive stand still.
While The Rock did most of its damage on the field forcing 21 turnovers, The Crimson Hawks junior goalie Angela Lontoc secured the victory with 12 saves. Each team only scored one goal each before the end of regulation.
“We weren’t drawing as many shooting space balls,” Hopkins said. “We had the opportunity. We just had some great defensive stands like we have had all year.”
These “great defensive” stands is a summary of The Rock’s entire season.
After coming off of a 9-8 season, it was clear that The Rock was taking steps in the right direction, but no one anticipated it to come so quickly. Hopkins said the team is taking steps in the right direction. The Rock went 1-4 in games against nationally-ranked opponents. All of the losses are games that could have been won.
Much of the team’s success came from the play of senior attacker Caitlynn Palladino.
Palladino was the Athlete of the Month in March, and for very good reason.
In her final season, she was the team’s lead scorer with 44 points.
Those points were well spread out coming from 32 goals and 12 assists, both second on the team.
With players like Torchia and Vodde, who were behind Palladino in points with 41 and 33 points, there are players who can fill her shoes next season.
Hopkins credits this years success, and the anticipation of next year’s success, to the youth of her team.
“One of the great things about our team is that we are driven,” Hopkins said. “We have a good incoming class and some good, very young players already.”
Along with the return of Torchia and Vodde, junior goalie Emily Bitka is returning for her final season.
The player to look forward the most to helping the team next year is freshman ShyAnne Toomer.
The midfielder didn’t start any games, but appeared in every one. She led the team in assists with 13 and also had 11 goals.
Those four will not be able to do it alone, and Hopkins knows that. Hopkins said she hopes to see some more people step up in the future.
With the season coming to an end in a heart breaking loss, Hopkins said she has no time to dwell on it, but take her team’s best season as high hopes for the future.
“Next year we want to make the playoffs again,” Hopkins said. “We’re looking to have our first home playoff game.”