Lacrosse season ends with a valiant effort

The Oakland University women’s lacrosse team played in the inaugural Division II National Championship held in Scottsdale, Ariz., and even though they came up short, fought until the bitter end – losing three very competitive games.

In the first game against Southern Methodist University, the Golden Grizzlies were defeated 17-16. The Mustangs jumped out to an 11-6 lead late in the first half before OU finally came alive.

The Grizzlies went on a 9-3 run to take a 15-14 lead with 12:04 remaining in the game on a goal by senior captain Haley Noonan.

However, the Mustangs would prove to be too much for the Grizzlies on this sweltering day, as the immense heat took its toll on Oakland. After losing sophomore defender Desiree Messina due to dehydration early in the first half, OU continued to play hard but a three-goal surge from SMU allowed the Mustangs to take a 17-15 lead with 6:46 left to play.

Oakland would go down and score a tying goal in the final minute, but Noonan was called for a crease violation and the goal was nullified. SMU ran out the clock from there and handed the Grizzlies their second loss of the season.

In the team’s second game against the University of North Carolina, Oakland fell to the Tar Heels, 14-9. After starting out slow, OU scored the final seven goals of the first half to take a 7-4 lead at halftime.

But in the second half UNC showed why they were one of the top teams in Division II and scored the first nine goals to put the game out of reach.

In the final game, Oakland was defeated by St. Benedict, 17-12. The Grizzlies ended their season at 16-4.

“The lacrosse gods weren’t with us,” OU coach Towbey Kassa said. “We had the edge in shots and ball possession but we couldn’t put the ball in the net.”

Kassa was disappointed with how the season ended, but already the focus is on how to improve and compete against what will be a tough schedule next season.

“Next year, we’re going to play more road games,” Kassa said. “It takes a lot of toll leaving at three in the morning and it took some preparation off.”

There were bright spots for the team in Arizona, including the play of junior captain Ashley Krisfalusi, who was named to the all-tournament team. The Grizzlies have the experience of playing on a national stage and it should make them better in the long run.

Oakland comes home disappointed but hopeful for the future that it can build off this season and look to head back to nationals next year. The motivation for the team from losing in Arizona combined with the prospect of winning a fifth straight divisional title is a defining mission for next season.

After winning four straight Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse League division titles and two conference championships, recruiting has never been better. Kassa has already confirmed two new players coming from St. John’s and Rockford, which will only add to the strong core of the team.

“The girls are really excited for next year,” Kassa said. “I think we’ll win our division and it will just be how our leadership does with the new girls coming in.”