MEDFORD, Mass. – The Franklin & Marshall women's lacrosse team is headed to the Elite 8 for the 21st time in program history after a thrilling 12-11 win against Ithaca under the lights on Saturday evening. The No. 6 Diplomats (18-3) never trailed, but could never completely escape the strong challenge throughout from the No. 10 Bombers (17-4) as they rallied to tie the game during each of the first three periods.
With the victory, Franklin & Marshall will return to action on Sunday night for another 7 p.m. opening draw against No. 3 Tufts with a spot in the Final Four on the line.
F&M held a four-goal lead, 11-7, heading into the final period, but Ithaca had one more rally during that remaining time as the lead was trimmed to 11-10 with 3:42 left in regulation. Madison Bray, who went over 100 draw controls on the season during the contest, was not going to let it get any closer as she finished a pass from Lydia Cassilly with 1:31 showing on the game clock for the eventual game-winning goal.
Bray was one of nine goal scorers for the Diplomats. In addition to her assist, Cassilly led the team with three goals. Sydney Lowe also tallied twice, with Kate McLam (1g, 1a) and Ally Marino (1g, 1a) adding multi-point evenings to the winning effort. Every save was also huge, and Emily Kitchin made 10 of those throughout the contest. Her intimidating presence in the crease held Ithaca scoreless on five free-position shot attempts.
The contest was a game of runs as the Diplomats won the first and third quarters, while Ithaca took the second and fourth to less degrees of dominance. Cassilly scored her first goal of the night just 1:03 after the opening whistle and had her second goal on a free-position at the 5:30 mark of that opening period. The first-year's second goal helped to spark a 3-0 run that also featured goals from Bridget Kane and Adde Hollander. The spurt had F&M out to a 4-1 lead after just 15 minutes.
When the teams switched sides, the momentum seemed to follow as Ithaca unleashed a 3-0 run of its own to start the second quarter. It took nearly 15 minutes for the Diplomats to find their fifth goal of the night, but Lowe did so with impeccable timing as she finished a pass from McLam with 12 seconds remaining in the half to give F&M a 5-4 lead at the break.
The third quarter saw Franklin & Marshall score four consecutive goals after the Bombers tied it early in the period. Those four goals from Marissa McGarrey, Lowe, McLam, and Lane Lambeth gave the Diplomats a 9-5 lead, matching their largest advantage of the night. After a pair of goals from Ithaca, Marino and Cassilly closed the quarter with back-to-back strikes that stretched the lead back to four.
Ithaca slowly mounted its charge back into the contest and had the score at an 11-10 F&M advantage with 3:42 left in regulation. The Bombers held an 18-8 advantage in draw controls throughout the contest and won another after that goal which made it a one-goal differential. Nevertheless, Mary Pat McKenna secured a ground ball in the defensive end to abruptly halt that possession before Bray's eventual game-winning goal as the possession clock was winding down. Ithaca did manage to score with one second left in regulation, but it was too little, too late as the Diplomats' bench poured onto the field in celebration following the 12-11 final.
The Bombers finished the contest with a 33-27 advantage in shots, with each team's goalie making 10 saves. With Ithaca controlling more draws, Franklin & Marshall won the turnover battle and finished with a 16-13 edge in ground balls. Marino led F&M with three ground balls, while Bray, McKenna, and Kitchin each had a pair of GBs. Twelve of Ithaca's 18 turnovers were caused by the Diplomats' dominant defense, led by Marino's three takeaways. Bray, McGarrey, and McKenna each added two caused turnovers to that effort.
Thirteen of Franklin & Marshall's 21 Elite 8 Appearances have now come since 2006 under the current bracket set up, while eight of those postseason showings came from 1987-98 when the NCAA Tournament started with the quarterfinal round. The Diplomats have now made it to at least the Elite 8 during seven of head coach Mike Faith's nine consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
The Diplomats will be aiming for a Final Four appearance when they return to take on the homestanding Jumbos Sunday night at 7 p.m. F&M's two most recent Final Four appearances came during the 2015 and 2016 campaigns. The Diplomats will be seeking their ninth Final Four appearance in program history, previously qualifying in 1991, 1993, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 in addition to those two most recent appearances under coach Faith. The 2007 and 2009 seasons ended with the Diplomats hoisting the national championship trophy.