This one felt sweeter.
Just over two weeks after falling at home to seventh-seeded Merrimack in the Northeast-10 quarterfinals, the Adelphi women’s lacrosse team redeemed itself in the best way, defeating West Chester, 11-5, in the NCAA Division II national championship in Allendale, Michigan, on May 19.
It was the Panthers’ ninth title in 10 appearances, and fourth in the last six years, but this season’s run was different. It was a challenge, a winding road that senior midfielder Chelsea Abreu said made the team appreciate the championship even more.
“When we lost to Merrimack, a lot of us thought our season was over,” said Abreu, who celebrated her twenty-second birthday and missed graduation while playing in the title game. “When the NCAA selection show came, and we heard our name called, that was a second chance. We thought we had something to prove.”
The Panthers made good on the opportunity.
In the national championship, Adelphi jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first 20 minutes and took an 8-1 cushion into the break. The seven-goal halftime deficit was West Chester’s largest of the year, but the Golden Rams opened the second half with three straight goals to make it 8-4 with 10:55 remaining. Adelphi responded by scoring the next three goals to put the game away.
It was, according to coach Pat McCabe, one of the best games Adelphi played all season.
“It was that sense of urgency,” he said. “Some games this season, it’d be our offense carrying our defense or vice versa. This was our most complete game.”
McCabe said that he saw his team play with a renewed sense of passion this postseason. The Panthers topped LIU Post, 16-3, and LeMoyne, 8-7, in overtime, to win the East Regional before cruising past previously undefeated Regis, 17-10, in a semifinal for McCabe’s 100th career victory.
The group that feared it wouldn’t be chosen to compete in the tournament approached every game as a chance to prove it was deserving.
“Those few days [after the Merrimack loss] were the worst,” said junior Kole Pollock, who led Adelphi with 81 goals this season. “To get another chance, we knew we had nothing to lose. We put everything out there.”
The 2019 season was unlike any that Adelphi had experienced recently.
The Panthers dropped two regular-season games — to LIU Post and LeMoyne — and won the East Regional as the No. 3 seed, the lowest ever for the program. Still, McCabe said the ups and downs defined the team as they took everything in stride and relishing each accomplishment.
“There was a sense of genuine excitement,” he said. “It never faded.”
The Panthers haven’t slowed down since the title. They’ve spent the last week in meetings, breaking down film and dissecting plays, planning for what comes next. That includes a redo graduation ceremony for the five seniors on the team.
It’s an unconventional end to their college careers, but it also was an unconventional season.
For Abreu, she couldn’t imagine a better ending.
“This year was different because we were the ones doing the chasing,” she said. “But I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. People ask if there’s anything I’d change, and I wouldn’t.”
PANTHERS' road to the championship
DIVISION II TOURNAMENT
LIU Post, 16-3
LeMoyne, 12-11 (2 OT)
West Chester, 11-5