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UML to play for national title

Umass Lowell's cheerleader group are all huddled together.

By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online.



LOWELL -- For the University of Massachusetts Lowell, it wasn't the quantity of shots but the quality.

Bryant College outshot the River Hawks 30-20 but forward Alysia Morgan's unassisted goal 57:55 into the game was the only one that mattered as UML beat the Bulldogs 1-0, to advance to its first-ever NCAA Division 2 national championship field hockey game.

'I talked to my kids at halftime. (Bryant) dominated us through the first half. Patrice (Mendoza) kept us in the game with huge saves. The turning point was when we got out of (the first half). They stepped up and they dominated,' praised UMass Lowell head coach Shannon Hlebichuk.

The River Hawks will play Bloomsburg, a 3-1 winner over Shippensburg, tomorrow (noon) at Cushing Field for the title.

Bryant, the defending Northeast-10 regular season champions, were a dangerous team throughout most of the first half, shooting 15 times and taking 10 penalty corner shots. But UML's defense and the masterful goaltending from Mendoza kept the hosts in the game and the Bulldogs off the scoreboard.

The River Hawks couldn't get far past Bryant, taking only nine shots toward the goal and couldn't put any plays together on their four penalty corner shots during most of the first half. A shot on net by forward Martha Marsden was negated for being out of the blue circle.

But after more than 20 minutes of defending Bryant's offensive shots, UMass Lowell began to get the ball down the other end of the field.

Things didn't stop for UML in the second half as it took over the field, as the River Hawks outshot the Bulldogs 6-2. For most of the half, the ball did not leave Bryant's side and Morgan's game-winning shot came during a scramble of River Hawks in front of the cage.

Bryant attempted to come back and had its best chances to score on corner shots but a shot from Elizabeth Gunn was blocked by the River Hawks.

'I take my hat off to them. Every one of our games this year was like this. Defensively I thought we played a great game. They're a fantastic team. They came right back on us. I know they're going to do a great job on Sunday,' said Bryant head coach Coni Fichera.

UMass Lowell allowed only three penalty corner shots for Bryant but no shots on net. Kristen Patat, goaltender for Bryant, had a total five saves, with two in the first and three in the second.

'All the games that we've played with them were definitely evenly skilled matches. It was who wanted it more. We had the drive,' Mendoza said.