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Two titans go down: Recapping the opening WLAX weekend

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Towson and James Madison picked up two landmark victories for their programs

NCAA Lacrosse: Women's Championships
Maryland took business against its CAA opponent this weekend. Penn State did not.
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 women’s lacrosse season opened over the weekend, with nearly half of the nation’s D-1 teams getting their seasons underway. Let’s check out a few of the highlights from across the country, including a pair of wins by two CAA schools.

James Madison notches 2OT victory over UNC

The Tar Heels, the 2016 national champions, entered the year as a formidable No. 3 in both the coaches’ and the media polls. But opening their season on the road against James Madison proved to be a tough task.

The Dukes trailed the Tar Heels 14–12 with just five minutes to play in the second half, after North Carolina standout midfielder Marie McCool scored her fourth of the game. But the two James Madison senior leaders — Elena Romesburg and Kristen Gaudian — were not ready to fold.

Romesburg got her team within one, then Gaudian did the rest. She tied the game with 1:26 to play in regulation, then in double overtime, she rolled to the net, running from left to right across the Tar Heels keeper, burying the game-winner on the far side.

James Madison’s comeback would not have been possible had it not been for the stellar goalkeeping of Molly Dougherty, a late substitution, who made several critical stops in the closing minutes and in overtime.

Here is head coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe on her decision to sub in the freshman goalie late in the game (from Harry Holtzclaw’s recap at The Breeze, JMU’s student newspaper).

“We thought that UNC was taking great shots,” Klaes-Bawcombe said. “But we expect our goalies to affect the game and we didn’t feel that was happening, so why not give Molly a chance? It is a great situation to be in when you have options as a coach.”

Towson holds off Penn State for upset

For the second straight season, Towson played its season opener at home against a top-6 team in the country. But unlike last year, when Stony Brook attacker and best offensive player in the world Kylie Ohlmiller scored a game winner with four seconds remaining, this year, Towson was able to hang on with a huge victory over Penn State.

The win was spearheaded by a terrific first half, in which Towson took an 11-5 lead. The Tigers maintained a sizable lead for much of the second half and took a 14-9 lead when 6-foot-2 senior midfielder Carly Tellekamp scored her third of the game with 6:55 to play.

The Nittany Lions came charging back. Senior midfielder Katie O’Donnell, a 65-goal scorer in 2017, buried two goals within 10 seconds in the final minute. The second score pulled Penn State within 14-13 with 38 seconds to play. The Nittany Lions actually won the ensuing draw, but Towson sophomore defender Sami Chenoweth forced a turnover to stymie the comeback and give the Tigers their first top-5 win in school history.

Quite a day for CAA women’s lacrosse.

Business as usual for No. 1 Maryland

On Sunday, William & Mary sought to keep the good vibes rolling for CAA women’s lax, but the defending champions had none of it. Maryland pulled out a 17-8 victory to extend the Terps’ home winning streak to ... (gulp) ... 66 games.

Maryland’s offense was especially clinical in the first half, when the team scored 15 goals on 19 total shot attempts. They took a 10-0 lead within the first 13 minutes to roll the running clock.

In a circle, sophomore Kali Hartshorn grabbed six draw controls after leading the Terps in the category in her freshman season.

Maryland will have its first major test on Saturday on the road against Florida.

Sun Devils sweep opening weekend of inaugural year

The Arizona State women’s lacrosse team has never lost a game in the entire history of their program.

Okay. Yes. The team did not exist prior to the 2018 season, But what a bountiful opening weekend it was.

Working with a roster of nearly all freshmen, as any new program typically has, head coach Courtney Martinez Connor led her team to wins over both Kennesaw State and Stetson.

Against the Owls, Graci Fulkerson scored the first goal in the history of Arizona State lacrosse just 45 seconds into the game, etching her name into the record books.

But the real standout of the weekend was junior Kerri Clayton, a former Jacksonville attacker, who scored 12 goals in the two games combined to take a very early NCAA lead.

Lacrosse in the desert? It seems to be working out so far. Arizona State will play its first home game on March 3 against Presbyterian.

I see you, Nicole Levy

Check out the brilliant stickwork by the Syracuse attacker, going BTB on an assist and a goal in the Orange’s dominant 23-11 season opening win over UConn.

Syracuse’s 23 goals were the most by any team over the opening weekend.

#PlayForJulia

It was a heartwarming sight in Gainesville on Sunday, as the Gators and Buffaloes dedicated their season-opening game to Julia Sarcona, the Colorado attacker who tragically passed away in a car accident last month. She was 21.

Both teams wore No. 15 warm-up shirts and wore black and gold bracelets with her name.

When the Colorado team touched down in Florida on Saturday, they were met with a mural that the Florida team painted, dedicated to Sarcona.

All across the nation, lacrosse teams and players are playing with Sarcona on their minds and in their hearts. Sarcona grew up a Long Island girl, and played at Northport High School and on the Yellow Jackets, one of the best club teams in the country.

On Wednesday, the Bryant women’s lacrosse team surprised senior Madison McNally, who had been one of Sarcona’s best friends at Northport, with signs and a ticket to Florida to attend the special game.

Florida senior midfielder Allie Pavinelli graduated with Sarcona at Northport in the same class. Here’s how she remembered Julia, as quoted by Josie Kuhlman on FloridaGators.com:

“She was a player that didn’t get the most minutes on the team, but it didn’t matter to her,” Pavinelli said. “She was the type of teammate and person you wanted on your team. She was their soul-center, so it’s going to be really hard for them without her.”

If there’s anything to note about the lacrosse family, and the Long Island lacrosse family, it’s its tight-knittedness. Everyone in the sport that knew her, is playing with Sarcona on her mind.

Colorado will play at Northwestern on Thursday. The Buffaloes’ home opener will be on February 25 against San Diego State.