POUGHKEEPSIE — The Canisius College women’s lacrosse team used a huge second half to storm to its third straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title Sunday afternoon.
Lancaster native Maria Kotas earned MAAC Tournament MVP honors as she scored four second-half goals, including the game-tying and game-winning goals in the final seven minutes, as the Golden Griffins won at Marist, 10-9.
Along with becoming the first MAAC school to win three straight titles in the sport, Canisius earned its third straight automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Canisius (14-4) will play at Penn State in the first round on Friday. The winner will face either Massachusetts or Connecticut in Sunday’s second round.
“We did a great job today of keeping our focus and sticking to our game plan against a tough Marist squad,” Canisius coach Scott Teeter said. “We made some adjustments at halftime and I thought our team really got re-energized by the changes. With the game on the line, our big players really stepped it up a notch to play their best lacrosse and that was huge for us. We’re definitely going to enjoy this, and we look forward to the challenges ahead next weekend in the NCAA Tournament.”
Kotas, a junior midfielder and captain, not only scored four times in the second half but also earned six draw controls after halftime. She matched her career high for goals in a game with four and her seven total draw controls were two more than her previous career best.
Canisius’ 14th win of the season matched a school record set in 2011, but things did not look good from the outset. The Griffs trailed Marist (9-10) early, 4-1, and were down, 4-2, at halftime, their second-lowest first-half goal total of the season and fewest tallies since the season opener at Louisville.
Canisius tied the game at 7-7 on a goal by Lindsey Morgan (Lancaster) with 12:11 left, but Marist again took the lead, going up 9-8 with 8:22 to play.
Freshman Ashley Bull won the ensuing draw for Canisius and after Tori Quinn hit a post on a free-position attempt, Kotas netted an unassisted goal with 6:56 left to tie the game at 9-9.
Kotas then won the next draw control and again scored an unassisted goal with 3:21 remaining to put the Griffs up 10-9, their first lead since the score was 1-0.
Kotas then added her career-best seventh draw control of the game and Canisius killed the remaining time – aided by a Marist yellow card – to seal the win.
Senior Morgan Leonard, sophomore Meghan Cuddy and freshmen Bull and Brenna Murray joined Kotas on the MAAC All-Tournament Team. Kotas has been named to the MAAC All-Tournament Team in each of her three seasons at Canisius.
Leonard finished the game with three points, two goals and one assist, while Cuddy also added a goal. Bull had two ground balls, one draw control and one caused turnover on Sunday.
Murray was once again key for Canisius in the draw circle. After losing eight of the game’s first 10 draws, Murray helped swing the battle toward the Griffs with Canisius winning seven of the last 11.
Morgan also added two tallies for the Griffs, while sophomore Quinn had a goal and an assist.
Sophomore Kayla Scully earned the victory in goal with six saves.
Morgan scored the first goal of the game, netting a free-position chance just 90 seconds in to become the sixth player in Canisius history to score 100 career goals.
The Griffs finished with a 30-21 advantage in shots and a 16-14 edge in ground balls, while Marist won the draw-control battle, 12-9.
The Griffs are part of this year’s 26-team NCAA Tournament. Canisius fell to nationally ranked Massachusetts in each of the last two seasons in a play-in contest (to a 16-team bracket), including a 13-12 loss last season.