There’s a strong case of déjà vu following Friday’s WCLA national semifinals. 

Wins by No. 1 seed Pittsburgh and No. 6 Delaware sets up a re-match of the 2017 final, with the exact seedings that the teams had that year in Utah. Two years ago, Blue Hens captured their first WCLA title by upsetting the Panthers, 13-11. Can it happen again?

In Friday’s first game, Michigan won the tempo battle, but Pittsburgh won the war.

In a game played to Michigan’s preferred pace, with deliberate, long offensive possessions, it was the Pitt defense that shined, leading the Panthers to an 8-3 win. Pitt held Michigan to its lowest goal output of the season to advance to Saturday’s WCLA championship game.

“We score a lot of goals and our offense overshadows our defense sometimes, but defense is still our anchor,” said Pitt coach Kevin Tidgewell.

Michigan took its only lead of the game with 10:45 left in the first half on Doria Weiss’ free position goal, giving the Wolverines a 2-1 lead. Michigan wouldn’t find the back of the net again for 29 minutes.

Goals by Caroline Lederman and Allison Macrae to close the first half gave the Panthers a 3-2 halftime edge. Macrae and Alicia Reuscher finished the game with two goals each for Pitt, which scored less than 10 goals for just the second time this year.

But the day belonged to the Panthers’ defense. Quick slides, effective double-teams, and great goaltending by senior Katie Honebrink, who finished with 16 saves, allowed Pitt to steadily pull away.

“Katie was amazing. She lights up when we play Michigan,” Tidgewell said.

Honebrink was quick to deflect credit to her teammates.

“It’s almost easy back there because our defense is so phenomenal,” she said. “Michigan is a great team and they rip it. I guess I just rise to the occasion against them.”

Pitt also utilized a defensive scheme they rarely use, matching junior Emily Nutter as a lock-off defender against Michigan’s freshman All-American Anna Park. The strategy worked perfectly, minimizing Park’s impact.

“My job was just to stick with her everywhere, and my teammates work with me,” Nutter said. ““There’s pride in being the backbone of the team. We know we can hold it down.”

Pittsburgh, the nation’s only undefeated team, improved to 18-0 overall. 

In the second semifinal, a dominating first half performance by Delaware in which it executed its offense at high efficiency and built a 9-3 halftime lead eventually carried the Blue Hens past BYU, 12-9, but not before the a furious late rally by the Cougars.

Powered by four goals from sophomore Allie Scannapieco, Delaware had a 11-4 lead with just over 22 minutes remaining. That’s when momentum swing.

Five straight goals by BYU over a five-minute span, fueled by three goals from senior Tessia Anderson, pulled the Cougars to within 11-9 with 10:09 left to play. 

Delaware finally stopped the run with Alexa Woodruff’s second goal of the game at 8:40, breaking a scoring drought of 14 minutes. 

“Yeah, it got a little exciting, but we just focus on supporting each other and hyping each other up,” said defender and team captain Emma Walter.

Scannapieco, a transfer from George Washington’s varsity program, finished with four goals and an assist to pace Delaware, while Woodruff and senior Sarah Tappan added two goals each. Goalie Sabrinia Barr finished with 12 saves, including two key stops in the closing minutes.

“We love playing together and it feels great to do this as a number six seed,” Scannapieco said. “When we play to our best, we feel like we can play with anyone.”

Anderson finished with four goals and Heather Haight added three to pace BYU. 

Saturday’s championship game, slated to start at 2:30 pm, will not only feature a re-match of the 2017 final, but also a re-match of this year’s regular season meeting in March. Pitt won that game at home, 8-6, one of just two close games that the Panthers played all season.

“It will be nice to face them on neutral field this time,” Walter said. Delaware is 12-2 overall.

The championship game will be available for viewing via free streaming on www.laxsportsnetwork.com.  

Harrow Sports serves as the official event partner for the 2019 US Lacrosse WCLA National Championships, while US Lacrosse’s national partners, Motive Pure, Pearl by Guardian, Nationwide, Impact Canopy, Krossover, SISU and Sports Performance Tracking provide additional event support.