ADRIAN, Mich. – The Adrian College women's lacrosse team extended their winning streak to 11 games by defeating visiting Kenyon College, 18-16, at Multi-Sport Performance Stadium for their first-ever NCAA tournament win.
The game pitted the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association champion Bulldogs against the North Coast Athletic Conference champion Ladies from Gambier, Ohio for the right to travel to Cortland State (N.Y.) Saturday in the second round of the national tournament.
The Bulldogs went on a 10-goal run in the latter part of the first half and never looked back although the Ladies made a valiant comeback attempt that fell just short as they ran out of time.
"It's a great feeling," said head coach Rachel Cibulas.
"It feels really good. They worked really hard. I have to give a lot of credit to the seniors and our captain, Cassie Hoyez, who helped keep me and (assistant coach) Melissa (Nakasuji) level-headed. They really helped get us through this game."
Adrian goalkeeper Maddie McDonald would finish with seven saves on the night.
The 17-2 Bulldogs held the edge in shots (37-29) and groundballs (21-15). Duncan led the team in shots with 12, while Birlson accounted for a team-high four groundballs.
Although the Bulldogs had a sluggish start, once they found their rhythm they were tough to stop. Almost all of their goals came from precision pass work often working give-and-go plays for goals.
The 13-3 NCAC champion Ladies took an early 3-0 lead and Adrian called a timeout to regroup.
"We talked about what our priorities were and that we had to do it one goal at a time and one possession at a time and not do anything fancy. We just needed to go out and stay composed and do what we knew how to do," said Cibulas.
Dugan was able to get Adrian on the board about six minutes into the game and the team got some confidence back and started to challenge although Kenyon maintained its three-goal cushion for about a dozen minutes into the game.
After Birlson would get Adrian within a goal at 3-2 off a free-position shot, Dugan would score again to keep the Bulldogs close in the early going at 5-3.
Adrian would start its 10-goal run with Early's pair of goals in less than a three-minute span to bring Adrian within a goal at 6-5.
Duncan took the game into her own hands. She took Adrian from a goal down to a 9-6 lead by scoring four consecutive goals in a three-and-a-half minute span.
"I think after we scored our first goal, we were alright. After that one, it was like we can get in this. Once we realized we could do it as a team, we went ahead and took it by storm," said Duncan.
The Bulldogs would not let up and scored the game's last nine goals of the first half for a 12-6 lead.
Adrian dominated early in the second half in building a 17-8 lead but Kenyon had a run of its own scoring the next eight to draw within a goal at 17-16 with just under five minutes left in the contest.
Duncan would score the lone goal of the final minutes off a free-position shot with 2:23 left to play. It would be her 85th goal of the season and would secure Adrian's win to advance them to the next round against Cortland State on Saturday.
Kenyon entered the game with a nine-game win streak as NCAC tournament champions having defeated Denison University 12-8 and The College of Wooster 14-9 last Thursday and Saturday, respectively. The win over Wooster gave Kenyon its first-ever NCAC crown.