Gratton goal caps VWC's stunning comeback win at St. Mary's
ST. MARY'S, Md. -- Virginia Wesleyan College's women's lacrosse team put together one of its best efforts of the season on Tuesday to record one of the biggest program victories in several seasons.
The Marlins (5-5) put the defensive clamps on the host Sea Hawks of St. Mary's College in the final 23 minutes, allowing just one goal, and bolstered the effort with an aggressive offensive attack. The result: VWC outscored St. Mary's 7-1 and posted a thrilling 14-13 overtime victory on the St. Mary's field.
Junior Rachel Gratton (Stratham, N.H./Exeter) (left) fired in the game-winning goal with 3:14 remaining in overtime, scoring off a pass from junior Natalie Belva (Colorado Springs, Colo./Liberty). The Marlins dominated the remaining time with defense, not allowing the Hawks another shot at the goal.
The victory not only pinned only the second home field loss on the Hawks (8-4) this season, but also marked the first VWC win ever against St. Mary's in women's lacrosse. It snapped a six-game losing streak in the series that began in 2001.
St. Mary's looked like it would keep its series grip on the Marlins when Melissa Mayer (Crofton, Md./South River) and Emily Shafer (Hollywood, Md./Leonardtown) netted back-to-back goals to give the Sea Hawks a 12-7 advantage with 25:43 remaining.
But, when Belva came through with an unassisted goal three minutes later, momentum began to shift. Taylor Harding (Norfolk, Va./Norfolk Collegiate)scored a minutes later and Gratton came through on a free position shot, and the Marlins were within a 12-10 score with 10:45 on the clock.
Shafer rolled through the defense to stop the bleeding for St. Mary's with a goal at 7:52, but it was only a temporary stall for the Marlins. Courtney Williams (Leonardtown, Md./Leonardtown), Tara Harding (Waterford, N.Y./Clifton Park Shenendehowa), and Nikki Salyers (Severna Park, Md./Severna Park) all scored unassisted goals in the final 6:18 to tie the game for VWC. Salyers' goal made it a 13-13 score with 1:16 on the clock.
St. Mary's started the overtime by winning the draw control, but gave up the ball on a turnover. Tara Harding picked it up for the Marlins and got the ball up field where Belva took it toward the goal and fired it to Gratton for the go-ahead score.
Salyers led all scoring, tying a season-high with four goals. Williams added three and Belva, Tara Harding and Gratton all had two each for VWC.
Aubrey Mirkin (Ashton, Md./Sherwood) and Shafer led St. Mary's with three goals each.
Virginia Wesleyan finished with a 32-29 edge in shots and a 17-14 advantage in draw control wins, the latter led by Williams with five and Courtney Shelton (Prince Frederick, Md./Huntingtown) with four.
Both teams recorded 10 saves. Brittany MacKnew (Abingdon, Md./Bel Air) had six saves in the first half for VWC and Michelle Mace (Dumfries, Va./Woodbridge Forest Park)recorded four in 36 minutes for the Marlins. Colleen Simpson (Arnold, Md./Broadneck) posted all 10 saves for St. Mary's.
Virginia Wesleyan competes again on Saturday, Apr. 2, playing at No. 14 ranked Washington & Lee University in an Old Dominion Athletic Conference game beginning at 2:30 p.m.