May 2, 2013
BALTIMORE - Vanderbilt freshman Alexa Kunowsky scored five goals and junior Abby Wheeler added four, but No. 8 Penn State netted the game's final two goals to take a 16-14 victory in the American Lacrosse Conference quarterfinals Thursday at Homewood Field.
Playing against one of the league's three regular season tri-champions in the opening round of the conference tournament, Vanderbilt battled back from a four-goal deficit to tie the game with nine minutes remaining.
"I've said this time and time again this season, but our team had so much character and so much fight this year," VU Head Coach Cathy Swezey said. "I really have to take my hat off for our senior class for leading us through a really difficult year. It would have been very easy to give up, but they just didn't. [Goalkeeper] Chelsea Pasfield finished her career tonight with a big game; Paige Cahill shut down her mark. They did big things tonight."
Senior Courtney Kirk contributed a game-high four assists to the contest, moving her to fifth all-time at Vanderbilt with 59 career assists. Two of her helpers were to Kunowsky, who tallied a career-high total on the evening.
"Alexa Kunowsky just had the biggest game of her very young career," Swezey said. "What a way to end her freshmen year. That's going to be big for her future."
Wheeler also had a season-high evening with her four goals. She scored three of Vanderbilt's first four goals to keep the Commodores within striking distance.
"What Abby [Wheeler] did for us in the first half, she was a fire spark all on her own," Swezey said. "The energy she was providing for our offense was excellent. Other people's shots weren't falling and she just took control."
Penn State opened with a 4-1 lead as Kelly Lechner scored two of her five goals in the game's first 11 minutes. But the Nittany Lion lead never grew larger than four goals. Freshman Mallory Schonk scored her second of the game with 12 seconds remaining in the first half to bring Vanderbilt within three at 11-8. That 19-goal total through 30 minutes matched the total for goals in the day's first game, as Ohio State knocked off host Johns Hopkins, 10-9, to advance to face Florida in the semifinals. Penn State will face Northwestern in the second semifinal.
Down 14-10 with 13 minutes to play, Vanderbilt went on a 4-0 run to tie the game. Wheeler started the scoring off an assist from Schonk before senior Olivia Goodman contributed a pair of assists on goals by freshman Amanda Lockwood and Kunowsky. Kunowsky went back-to-back, scoring her fifth of the day on a free position shot with 9:48 remaining.
Penn State's final two goals were unassisted. Haley Ford notched her third of the game to give PSU a 15-14 advantage before Lechner iced the game with her fifth of the night.