DENVER — Adelphi University again has its feet planted on familiar ground — the Division II national championship game.
The No. 1-seeded Panthers defeated No. 2 Le Moyne College, 13-4, in the semifinals of the women’s lacrosse national championship at The Regency Athletic Complex in Denver on Thursday to advance to their third straight title game.
Led by senior attacker Emily Keesling, who had a game-high seven points on two goals and five assists, the back-to-back defending national champions established their dominance early and then enforced it throughout.
Adelphi took a 5-0 lead midway through the first half, and closed with a 9-1 advantage at the break as six different players found the net for the Panthers.
Rachel Aitkens, a senior Adelphi attacker, caught fire with three straight goals that doubled her team’s early 3-0 advantage.
“I think we’re a big-game team,” coach Pat McCabe said. “Our senior leadership is important to our team and it showed today.”
Junior attacker Jacqueline Jahelka and sophomore midfielder Michele Scannell both found the net twice in the first half. Scannell then struck again 56 seconds into the second half off an assist from Keesling to extend Adelphi’s lead to 10-1.
This was Adelphi’s third victory over Le Moyne this season after most recently defeating the Dolphins, 13-6, in the Northeast-10 championship game on May 8.
Thursday’s meeting was the fourth all-time in the playoffs between the two schools. Adelphi ended Le Moyne’s season at the same point last year with a 10-5 victory in the semifinal round.
“We know we have a target on our back, especially when we play Le Moyne,” Keesling said. “But when we score the first goal it really sets the tone for the game.”
Adelphi converted four of five free-position shots off 13 Le Moyne fouls and edged the Dolphins 15-4 in draw controls, which led to the Panthers playing the majority of the game in the offensive end and having ample scoring opportunities.
“Scoring five goals right away gave us momentum to push forward and keep going,” said senior goalkeeper Taylor Hayes, who made eight saves on 12 shots.
Adelphi (21-0) will face Florida Southern College (18-3), whom the Panthers beat 16-10 in February, in Saturday’s national championship game.
“We talked before the game that all we’re looking for is to give ourselves tomorrow,” McCabe said. “We got tomorrow.”
On playing Florida Southern for a second time, McCabe said: “We hope it ends the same way.”