Hartford, Conn. – Senior attacker Molly Cox (Norwell, Mass.) scored a game-high four goals to lead the Trinity College Bantams to a 10-5 win over The College of New Jersey Lions in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse Championship Tournament this afternoon on Sheppard Field. The top-ranked Bantams improve to 20-1 and advance to the NCAA Final Four for the fourth year in a row with their 20th victory in a row. No. 7-ranked TCNJ ends its year with an 18-4 mark having won 15 of its last 17 games but losing twice to the Bantams during that span (15-8 loss at home on April 15). Trinity will face Franklin and Marshall in the NCAA Semifinals on Saturday, May 23 at 4 p.m. at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. and Saturday's winner will play either Cortland State or Middlebury in the NCAA Finals on Sunday, May 24 at 4:30 p.m.
"There are no words to describe this, I am so excited," said Cox. "This team is a family and we had each other's backs today all game long. The last two years we made it this far, but this time we are determined to finish the fight."
Trinity never trailed in its second NCAA Quarterfinal win over the Lions in three seasons, opening up a 4-0 lead over the first 30 minutes. Junior Abby McQuillan (Medfield, Mass.) started things off with a pass from the right side to a cutting Clare Lyne (Concord, Mass.) who one-timed the ball into the TCNJ net 2:23 into the game. Lyne fed Cox on a Bantam tally at the 21:48 mark for a 2-0 lead, and Bantam rookie goalkeeper Zoe Ferguson (Ridgewood, N.J.), who pitched a shutout in the first half, made all seven of her saves in the first 13 minutes of the game. McQuillan and Cox added Trinity goals in the latter half of the opening stanza. College of New Jersey had a 10-to-7 shooting edge and an 8-to-4 advantage on ground balls in the first half, but Trinity won possession on all five draw controls.
"Our defenders really stepped up today against their playmakers," said Trinity Head Coach Katy Dissinger (1st Season), who has coached Trinity in all three of its previous NCAA Final Four appearances as a Bantam assistant coach from 2011 to 2014. "We learned the lesson in our season-opening loss at Colby that we need to start out strong every game, and we did that today."
McQuillan fed Lyne for a second time 1:25 into the second half for a 5-0 Bantam lead, but Lion junior Cortney Natalicchio (New Egypt, N.J.) and sophomore attacker Mia Blackman (Arlington, Va.) scored goals 1:07 apart to cut the Trinity advantage to 5-2 with 26:33 on the clock. Bantam junior midfielder Martha Griffin (Exeter, N.H.) traded goals with Lion senior attacker Erin Healy (Spring Lake Heights, N.J.), as Griffin became the first Trinity women's lacrosse player to reach the 100-point mark in one season, making the score, 6-3, with 17:47 remaining. Natalicchio bounced a ball that nicked Trinity junior goalie Emily Mooney (New York, N.Y.) and then hit the post on a free-position shot with 14:39 on the clock, and Cox scored from Lyne moments later to shift the momentum back to the home team.
Cox , Griffin, and senior tri-captain midfielder Caroline Hayes (Greenland, N.H.) completed the 4-0 Trinity run to give the Bantams a comfortable cushion at 10-3 with just over eight minutes left, but College of New Jersey senior Ava Fitzgerald (Merrick, N.Y.) and junior Megan Devlin (Marmora, N.J.) quickly pulled the visitors back into the game with goals just 19 seconds apart just over a minute later. Leading, 10-5, with seven minutes to go, Trinity held the ball for the majority the rest of the way, and Mooney made key saves against shots by Blackman and Fitzgerald to preserve the victory.
Lyne joined Cox as a four-point scorer, notching two goals and two assists, while McQuillan added a goal and two assists, Griffin scored twice on free positions, and Hayes had one goal and one assist. Five Lions scored unassisted goals, while Healy and Devlin added two ground balls and two draw controls apiece, and sophomore Jaclyn Douglas (Malvern, Pa.) paced the College of New Jersey defense with two ground balls and two caused turnovers. Ferguson and Mooney combined for 11 saves with Ferguson improving her season mark to 12-0, while sophomore Kelly Schlupp (Holland, Pa.) had four stops for TCNJ.