Salt Lake City, Utah – Thursday was a good day for the student-managed, student-coached programs at the US Lacrosse WCLA (Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates) National Championships.

Without the benefit of a paid coach to help devise game strategy, call plays or coordinate in-game substitutions, the Delaware Club and North Carolina Club both posted dramatic upsets over higher seeds to earn berths in Friday’s Division I national semifinals.

The two Mid Atlantic Women’s Lacrosse League (MAWLL) rivals will be meeting for the third time this season, having split their two earlier encounters.

“This is the most exciting day in our college careers,” said a jubilant Alyssa Sorrentino, junior goalie for Delaware.

The drama in both victories may have simply heightened the intensity of the postgame celebrations.

Trailing No. 2 seed Santa Clara 7-3 in the first half, No. 7 Delaware battled back to within 8-7 at halftime. Neither team led by more than two goals in the second half, and when SC’s Claire Smoker scored her third goal of the game with 5:50 left, the score was knotted at 12-12. 

Freshman Jillian Leonard then tallied the biggest goal of her collegiate career, unassisted at 1:38, to put her team on the brink of the semifinals. Delaware won the ensuing draw, but turned the ball over with 45 seconds remaining, affording the Broncos one more chance to score.

A stifling Blue Hen defense did a masterful job however and the final horn sounded without Sorrentino having to handle a potential game-tying shot. Delaware 13, Santa Clara 12.

“I’m pretty sure I blacked out during that last possession,” Sorrentino said. “I don’t think I remember anything during those 45 seconds.”

Sophomore Sarah Tapan led Delaware (11-2) with three goals and one assist, with Annie Igler and Leonard finishing with two goals each. Delaware, which had recorded just one WCLA Tournament victory in five previous appearances, has doubled that total in two days in Salt Lake City and carries a four-game winning streak into Friday’s semifinal game.

Just minutes after the Blue Hens had started their postgame celebration, No. 14 seed North Carolina posted an equally dramatic triumph by rallying for a 10-9 win over No. 11 Michigan. The Tar Heels dug a deep hole in the first half, falling behind 6-0, but used a 5-0 run over the last 12 minutes to pull within 6-5 at halftime.

Michigan led 9-8 with under a minute to play in the game when lightning struck for the Heels. Perhaps benefitting from being a man-up due to a check-to-the head call against Michigan, All-American Sydney Sapir tied the score on an unassisted goal with 25 seconds left. Then with just four seconds to go, sophomore Julia Silvestri netted the game-winner to cap the unfathomable comeback and secure her team a spot in the final four.

“We were just trying to get the ball to an open girl and find the net,” Silvestri said. “It was pretty nerve-racking. I still can’t believe it. It all happened so quickly.”

While North Carolina (10-3) will be making its first Division I semifinal appearance, the program does have a successful WCLA history. The Tar Heels won the Division II title in both 2012 and 2014 before moving up in class.

The quarterfinal round drama was not confined to the two MAWLL victors. Defending national champion Georgia had its own white-knuckler earlier in the day to secure its spot into the semifinals.

Seemingly in charge with a four-goal second half lead as the clock ticked under three minutes to play, Colorado State staged a furious rally that virtually knocked the No. 4 seed Bulldogs off their feet. Back-to-back goals just 26 seconds apart by CSU’s Camryn Chisholm pulled the Rams to within 10-8 with 2:22 to go.

Freshman Megan Res then scored unassisted with 1:31 remaining to pull Colorado State to within one and fuel the frenzy on the CSU sideline. Following a Georgia timeout, the Dawgs secured possession of the draw and were able to effectively stall away the remaining time. CSU never got the ball back.

Junior All-American Julia Norek was one of four multi-goal scorers for Georgia (15-3) and helped seal the win as part of the stall in the closing minute.

“It was very stressful, but we had the mindset that we are not going to lose this game,” Norek said. “We practice that stall a lot so that we are prepared to handle the pressure. It’s all about moving the ball to whoever is open.”

The Bulldogs carry a 10-game winning streak into Friday’s semifinal game against No. 1 seed Pittsburgh, which avoided any drama with a workmanlike 11-5 win over No. 8 Brigham Young. The Panthers stayed in control throughout, building a 7-2 halftime lead and maintaining a cushion of at least four goals throughout the second half.

Senior Lia Winter was one of three Panthers to finish with two goals apiece, and goalie Katie Honebrink registered 11 saves.

“Our offense was good, but it was our defense that stepped up today,” said Winter, one of five seniors who remain from Pitt’s 2014 championship team. “We have a big squad and everybody plays, but a small senior class. We’re trying to bookend our careers.”

Similar to Georgia, Pitt (16-1) also brings a 10-game winning streak into the national semifinal game. The Panthers were champions of the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse League and lost their only game in late March by one goal against Colorado State.

Friday’s first semifinal between Georgia and Pitt begins at 5 p.m., following by the second semifinal between Delaware and North Carolina at 7 p.m.

WCLA Division I Championship – Thursday’s Quarterfinal Game Scores
No. 1 Pittsburgh 11, No. 8 BYU 5
No. 4 Georgia 10, No. 5 Colorado State 9 
No. 14 North Carolina 10, No. 11 Michigan 9
No. 7 Delaware 13, No. 2 Santa Clara 12

Thursday’s Division I Consolation Bracket 
Virginia 17, Western Washington 8
UCLA 11, Boston College 4
Va. Tech 15, Texas A&M 5
San Diego State 15, Cal Poly 13

Friday’s National Semifinals – Division I
5 p.m. - No. 1 Pitt (16-1) vs. No 4 Georgia (15-3)
7 p.m. - No. 7 Delaware (11-2) vs. No. 14 North Carolina (10-3)

Denver, Grand Canyon, Loyola Secure D-II Semifinal Berths

No. 1 seed Denver, No. 2 Grand Canyon and No. 3 Loyola all claimed spots in Friday’s WCLA Division II semifinals by finishing 2-0 in round-robin play Thursday. The fourth spot will be determined on Friday morning following the game between St. Thomas and Vermont. St. Thomas seals the berth with a victory, but a win by Vermont forces a tiebreaker scenario between those two teams as well as No. 4 seed Concordia.

Defending champion and No. 1 seed Denver posted a combined 37 goals in wins over Grand Valley State, 16-6, and Washington State, 21-9. Sophomore Kaitlin Ball, one of the heroes in last year’s championship triumph, paced the Pioneers with a team-high five goals in the win over WSU. Twelve different players scored for UD in that game. 

Offensive balance was also the theme earlier in the day for Denver, which had four different players collect two goals each in the win over Grand Valley State. The Pioneers (12-2) are riding an 11-game winning streak heading into Friday’s semifinal.

No. 2 seed Grand Canyon had to work a bit harder than the Pioneers in order to remain undefeated and secure its semifinal berth. GCU was put to the test in both of its wins, an 11-9 afternoon victory over Utah State, and an 11-10 overtime win over upstart Providence earlier in the day.

Sophomore Alexis Ortt scored the game-winner in that contest on a free position shot that trickled off the goalie’s shoulder with 2:30 elapsed in the extra sudden-death session.

“There was a lot of pressure and I was a little nervous,” Ortt said. “I’m a high shooter so I knew that’s where I was going with the ball.”

Grand Canyon will face No. 3 seed Loyola (11-2), which earned its fourth straight berth in the semifinals by defeating Utah, 20-10, and St. Benedict, 17-10, on Thursday. Junior Madison Craft fueled the win over Utah with a team-high five goals, while Rachael Siegelbaum netted four goals and Emma Gristina had three to lead Loyola past St. Ben.

The Greyhounds will try to secure their first appearance in the championship game since finishing as the national runner-up in 2010.

WCLA Division II Championship – Thursday’s Game Scores 
Denver 16, Grand Valley State 6
Denver 21, Washington State 9
Grand Canyon 11, Providence 10 (overtime)
Grand Canyon 11, Utah State 9
Loyola 20, Utah 10
Loyola 17, St. Benedict 10
Concordia 11, Vermont 10
St. Thomas 9, Concordia 7

Friday’s National Semifinals – Division II
1 p.m.  #1 Denver vs. #4 Concordia / #5 Vermont / #9 St. Thomas 
3 p.m.  #2 Grand Canyon vs. #3 Loyola