Memphis, Tenn. – The Transylvania women's lacrosse team's inaugural foray into the NCAA Division III Tournament ended on Sunday afternoon in the second round as the Pioneers were defeated by the Rhodes College Lynx, 23-9 at Mason Field.
Qualifying for their first NCAA Tournament berth in its sixth year of existence, Transylvania's drive for a tournament-opening win was denied by the host Rhodes, making its fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
The veteran pedigree of the Lynx was on display Sunday as the home team burst out to an 8-0 lead to start the day. Transylvania recovered in the second half, outscoring the Lynx 8 to 6, but a 17-1 first half eruption by Rhodes proved too much for the Pioneers to overcome in their first NCAA appearance.
The winningest season for the Pioneers in women's lacrosse program history came to an end Sunday with a record of 18-2. Rhodes sharpened its record to 15-3 as the Lynx continue their NCAA Tournament run against Trinity (Conn.) College in the third round next Saturday.
Clashing at Rhodes' home turf on a piping hot afternoon with temperatures nearing 90 degrees at opening draw, the Pioneers spent the opening 10 minutes of the game trying to keep pace with the motoring Lynx. Rhodes grabbed momentum at the outset as the Lynx's Erin Gleeson took a feed from Kendall Cunningham for the go-ahead goal 23 seconds into the contest for a one-goal lead.
The Pioneers settled in and began creating possessions, but Rhodes took advantage of a Transy turnover and scored their second goal of the day at the 25:40 mark of the first half. The Lynx's second goal spurred a string of seven goals over the next seven minutes as Rhodes crafted an 8-0 cushion.
The Pioneers' enthusiasm never faltered, and the persistence of the hungry Pioneers paid off as freshman attacker Shelby Wuest drew a penalty within the fan, setting up a free position shot. Wuest converted the Pioneers' first NCAA Tournament goal at the 16:57 mark as she scored on the free position shot to cut Rhodes' advantage to 8-1.
The Lynx answered back, scoring nine more goals to finish out the half to assume a 17-1 halftime lead. Rhodes' wealth continued to start the second half as the Lynx issued the first goal for an 18-1 advantage. The Pioneers began to find their rhythm after that point as freshman midfielder Salem Carlow struck for her first goal of the day at the 24:28 mark of the second half.
Transylvania tacked on a second straight goal as Wuest scored on her second free position goal of the day, making the score 18-3 in favor of Rhodes.
Senior attacker Julia Ward scored her first goal at the 19:51 mark of the second half as the Pioneers continued to rediscover their offense. Transylvania and Rhodes played evenly the rest of the way as the Lynx finished off a 23-9 final.
Carlow and junior attacker Alexis Rubin led the Pioneers in goals with each registering a hat-trick. Wuest finished the day with two goals and one assist. Junior midfielder Emma Oliver led the Pioneers in draw controls with eight.
Junior goalie Mackenzie Dent took the loss in goal for the Pioneers, tallying four saves in her first NCAA Tournament game.
Sunday's game also marked the final contest for three Pioneer mainstays, seniors Katherine Stachowski, Kate Winkelmeyer, and Ward. Stachowski scooped two ground balls in her final collegiate game while Ward, the program's career leader in goals, tacked on one final goal along with four draw controls to sign off on a foundational career for the Pioneers.
For Transylvania women's lacrosse, the 2018 season will represent a new standard of excellence and one the Pioneers aim to surpass in the upcoming year.
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