Women's Lacrosse Hangs On for Key CC Win

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

When Casey Armstrong of the Muhlenberg women’s lacrosse team lofted a pass toward teammate Michelle Certosimo with just over a minute remaining against hard-charging Haverford, it looked for all the world like an ill-timed turnover. Then the ball ricocheted off the football goalpost and landed softly at Certosimo’s feet. Seconds later, the Mules were scoring a critical insurance goal.

Christina Vittorio
Junior Christina Vittorio recorded a career-high three ground balls and caused two turnovers.
After a hot start, Muhlenberg used whatever it could to secure an important victory.

Muhlenberg jumped out to a big lead before weathering a furious Fords rally and taking a 14-12 decision that snapped a four-game skid in the series. After losses to top-10 powers Franklin and Marshall and Gettysburg, the Mules (7-3, 1-2) picked up their first Centennial Conference win against a Haverford squad that qualified for the playoffs last year and received votes in the national poll for two weeks earlier in the season.

“It feels great,” Armstrong said. “We didn’t beat Haverford the last few years, so a win against them is a huge deal for us.”

Over the first 35 minutes and change, the Mules looked like they might run away and hide. Junior Stephanie Umbach scored the sixth of her seven goals to give Muhlenberg an 11-3 lead with 24:35 to play. Then it got interesting.

Four days after scoring four times in the last minute against Gettysburg, the Mules watched Haverford give them a taste of their own medicine. Trailing 12-5, the Fords (5-5, 1-2) reeled off six straight goals, then closed to within one again on a tally with just under five minutes remaining.

They looked like they might get the ball back for a last chance to tie, but Armstrong’s pass took its friendly bounce and Certosimo took advantage, passing back to Armstrong for a goal with 1:08 to play.

Casey Armstrong
Armstrong's two assists gave her 20 for the season, matching her total from last year. She is only the third player in team history (the second named Armstrong) to have back-to-back 20-assist seasons.
“Whenever you throw a bad pass you get really nervous, but we have so much confidence in Michelle,” said Armstrong, who finished with four goals, two assists and a career-high seven draw controls. “She can catch anything you throw at her.

“We got a little calm, I think, when we were up by eight,” Armstrong added. “When they started coming back we got a little panicky. We know we scored four goals in 50 seconds or so against Gettysburg, and we were only two up here. We just took our time and finished on the last possession.”

Umbach scored at least seven goals for the third time this season en route to her 14th consecutive hat trick. Certosimo had a goal and three assists, while junior Kayleigh Thies added a goal and two helpers. Senior Ally Shaffer also found the back of the net during a first half in which the Mules scored on nine of their 13 shots.

“We played really great in the first half,” Armstrong said. “We had a lull in the second, but we have a way of bouncing back. Our bench has a great energy about them, and they really pump us up no matter what. We were able to get it together.”

Muhlenberg’s defense was every bit as impressive in the opening stanza. The Fords, who scored 18 goals in their victory last Saturday, could get little going in the Mules’ zone, thanks in large part to another outstanding performance by Kaitlyn McCaffrey.

Four days after causing a career-high six turnovers, the reigning CC defensive player of the week did herself one better, tying a school record with seven. Only two other Mules have accomplished that feat, the last in 2000. McCaffrey also scooped up a career-high seven ground balls, while sophomore goalie Kiersten Mulvey made five of her eight saves in the first half.

“Our defense slides and communicates so well,” Armstrong said. “Kaitlyn has been unbelievable all year, and Kiersten really stepped up. I’m never on that end of the field, but seeing them do that pumps me up as well.”

The going doesn’t get much easier for the Mules in their next couple of games. Muhlenberg takes on the other two playoff qualifiers from 2013, Washington College and McDaniel, in its next two games. But after holding their own with Gettysburg and knocking off the Fords, the Mules are confident they can navigate the gauntlet.

“Coming in against the two toughest teams in the conference and then beating Haverford is great for our confidence the rest of the season,” Armstrong said. “We feel like we can win a lot of conference games this year.”
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