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Hofstra women's lacrosse team falls to  Loyola Maryland in NCAA Tournament opener

Hofstra women's lacrosse coach Shannon Smith watches during

Hofstra women's lacrosse coach Shannon Smith watches during a game on Saturday, February 22, 2020. Credit: Dawn McCormick

Hofstra entered the NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament as an at-large team and exited as an at-large headache. The Pride didn’t play well enough to win their first-round matchup Friday, falling to Loyola Maryland, 11-9, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, but they took the Greyhounds to the brink, proving that they absolutely belonged in the field of 29.

"I don’t think anyone thought that we could win this game and I think we showed what Hofstra lacrosse is all about today, in that we’re a good lacrosse team and we deserve to be respected," Hofstra coach Shannon Smith said.

It was Hofstra’s third NCAA berth and first since 2007.

Hofstra fought back from 7-3 and 8-4 deficits to tie the score at 9 with 5:30 left in the game. The Pride (6-7) reeled off four straight goals in 5:55, punctuated by Jackie Gatti’s equalizer.

Elli Kluegel scored the winner with 1:40 left and Sydni Black added an insurance goal with 1:10 left. Loyola (12-2) will face third-seeded Syracuse at 1 p.m. Sunday in the second round.

"We just started finishing our shots," Smith said of the comeback. "We were getting opportunities, we just weren’t finishing our shots . . .   Defensively, we were really stepping up and making incredible stops.

"I thought our defense did everything we could. Eventually, in a game like that, the ball’s going to bounce one team’s way. Our team fought really hard and Loyola made one extra shot than we made."

Alyssa Parrella led Hofstra with three goals and two assists. Katie Whelan had two goals and two assists and Grace Langella added two goals. Goaltender Jess Smith made nine saves.

Loyola’s Kluegel led all scorers with four goals and Garden City native Kaitlyn Larsson made 12 saves.

After taking a 3-2 lead with 17:01 left in the half, the Pride failed to score again until the opening minute of the second half.

"I thought we were doing a great job of starting to fake and flip the ball around," Smith said of the turnaround. "[Whelan] and [Parrella] were bringing some high heat shooting the ball. Credit to the girls for changing up their shot and realizing what they needed to do on the field."

Parrella, playing in her final game for Hofstra, scored her 261st career goal and moved into 10th place in NCAA women’s lacrosse history.

"I think Alyssa deserves a lot more respect from Division I and a lot more recognition than what she gets," Smith said, referring to Parrella not being put on the nomination list for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the nation’s top lacrosse player. " . . . She deserved to be on that top 25 list for the Tewaaraton. She’ll be the best player that’s ever left Hofstra and the CAA conference."

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