BLOOMSBURG, Pa. — All Adelphi women’s lacrosse coach Pat McCabe wanted was for his biggest players to step up in the trying times of Friday’s NCAA Division II semifinal against Le Moyne.
Jacqueline Jahelka and Ryley Weber didn’t disappoint him.
The Panthers scored six of the last seven goals, three of which came from Jahelka, in an 11-7 win over their Northeast-10 rivals at Bloomsburg University.
Adelphi will play Florida Southern at 2 p.m. Sunday in a rematch of last year’s national championship game, which Florida Southern won, 8-7.
Jahelka struggled with her shooting early, hitting the post three times. But after Adelphi’s Michele Scannell tied it at 6 with 16:03 left in the game, Jahelka took over.
In what was a physical game with 61 combined fouls and seven yellow cards, Jahelka scored on a player-down situation, taking a pass from Beth Ann Pierce and beating goalie Hannah George to give Adelphi a 7-6 lead. The senior then scored two more goals in the next five-plus minutes, extending Adelphi’s lead to 9-6.
“Thankfully, at the biggest moments of the game, our biggest players made plays,” said McCabe, who attributed Jahelka’s early struggles to “bad luck” as opposed to poor shooting.
Perhaps the biggest play came on a defensive stop that led to Jahelka’s goal with 7:48 remaining.
Le Moyne’s Sidney Hall had what would have been the tying goal called back because of a shooting space violation. She was awarded a free position from the right side of the eight-meter line, but instead of shooting, she elected to pass.
Weber jumped the pass and sprinted downfield. Seconds later, Jahelka pushed the lead to 8-6 for Adelphi (20-1).
“When you turn a situation where they’re feeling like they’re knocking on the door and you go slam the door on the other end, that’s important,” McCabe said.
Hailey Peterson tied a career high with nine saves and was the main benefactor of Adelphi’s physical defense. The Panthers entered play allowing only 3.45 goals per game, best in Division II. “I have the best defense in the nation, across all divisions,” she said emphatically.
It was both teams’ defense that set the tone in the first half. After Pierce tied the score at 3 with 13:04 remaining, both sides played to a stalemate for nearly the rest of the half.
With 27 seconds left before halftime, Jahelka netted a free position for a 4-3 lead. Twenty seconds later, she assisted on a goal by Casey Zalewski for a 5-3 halftime lead. Zalewski also scored the game’s final two goals.
Scannell helped provide stability when Jahelka couldn’t get going early in the first half. Overall, she had two goals, an assist and seven draw controls.
“If you keep a smart and settled possession, obviously, we capitalize on it,” she said.
Jahelka was able to capitalize on Le Moyne mistakes during her game-changing spurt, even after seemingly nothing bounced her way early.
“At that point,’’ she said, “you just have to trust your skills and just try to pull something out of your sleeve and hope for the best.”