O'Keefe's 14 Saves, Puccia's Six Points Propel Women's Lacrosse to 12-11 Win Against No. 12 Vanderbilt
DURHAM, N.H. – Kathleen O'Keefe (Chatham, N.J.) recorded 14 saves and Laura Puccia (Fairport, N.Y.), the reigning America East Rookie of the Week, finished with six points to propel the University of New Hampshire women's lacrosse team to Wednesday afternoon's 12-11 non-conference victory against 12th-ranked Vanderbilt University at Memorial Field.
UNH won its second consecutive game to improve to 3-5, while Vandy lost its third consecutive game to fall to 5-4.
The 14 saves matched a career high for O'Keefe established March 13, 2010 against the University of Maryland. Puccia tallied career highs in both goals (five) and points to lead six Wildcats with multiple points.
Jenny Simpson (New Canaan, Conn.; three goals, two assists) recorded five points and Ilana Cohen (Andover, Mass.) set up four of Puccia's five goals to equal her personal best of four assists. Kate Keagins (Bay Shore, N.Y.) netted two goals while both Kayleigh Hinkle (Glenelg, Md.) and Rachael Nock (Severna Park, Md.) tallied a goal and an assist.
The Commodores were led offensively by Kacie Connors (3g, 2a), Carly Linthicum (2g) and Ally Carey (2g). Chelsea Pasfield surrendered 11 goals and stopped seven shots in 54 minutes, 37 seconds. Natalie Wills played the final 5:23 and was not credited with a save.
Trailing 9-7 with 18 minutes remaining in the second half, UNH went on a 3-1 run to tie the score at 10. Keagins scored in transition off a turnover to lift the Wildcats within 9-8 at 17:37. On the ensuing draw control, Simpson gained possession in the offensive zone and quickly advanced the ball to the lower left side of the fan, where Hinkle scored to level the score, 9-9, at 17:30.
Vandy's Kendall Pittinger controlled the draw and that led to Connors' third goal of the game – this time on a drive from the top of the fan and a shot into the upper-left corner – that put the visitors back on top, 10-9, at 16:43.
New Hampshire forged the fourth tie of the game, 10-10, at 13:24. Cohen, on the left wing, sent a pass to the front of the cage, where Puccia dropped the stick low and placed a shot past Pasfield.
O'Keefe kept the score deadlocked by denying Alex Priddy and Katie Mastropieri on free-position shots at 12:10 and 12:10, respectively. The 'Dores retained possession and Kelly Connors fired a shot wide at 11:39. Keagins, positioned behind the goal, gained possession for the Wildcats, who advanced the ball to the other end of the field.
UNH, which had not led since scoring the first two goals of the game, took an 11-10 lead at 10:46 when Nock sliced through the right side of the fan and fired a shot into the upper-right corner.
Puccia was awarded the ensuing draw control, but Pasfield denied Nock at 10:07 and Keagins at 8:38 to keep Vanderbilt within one goal. Carey drove down the middle of the fan and shot into the upper-left corner to even the score, 11-11, at 5:23.
Puccia once again controlled the ensuing draw and converted Cohen's pass into a goal on a low shot at the left doorstep at 4:07 to score what proved to be the game-winning goal.
Vandy's Pittinger collected the ball on the draw control, but Casey Bakker was denied by O'Keefe at 3:19. Linthicum maintained possession for the visitors, who called time out at 2:42. They lost the ball 10 seconds later, however, on an errant pass that bounded out of play.
The Wildcats immediately turned the ball back over to the Commodores when Puccia stepped out of bounds. O'Keefe preserved the 12-11 lead by stopping Kacie Connors' bid at 1:56. Vanderbilt maintained possession, however, which led to Pittinger's free-position shot at 1:42 that was blocked and sailed over the crossbar.
UNH's Brooke McGillis (Berwyn, Pa.) corralled the ball behind the net, but the 'Cats lost possession in its defensive zone with 47 seconds remaining when Linthicum stick-checked the ball out of O'Keefe's crosse. With the UNH goalie scrambling back to the net on the re-start, Abby Wheeler fired a shot wide. The visitors kept the ball, but McGillis forced a turnover and gathered the ground ball with 22 seconds to play.
New Hampshire passed the ball behind its cage and Vandy, despite heavy pressure, was unable to regain possession the rest of the way.
The Commodores finished with a 32-22 shot advantage, whereas UNH had the slight edge (13-12) in draw controls and ground balls were even at 11.
UNH struck first at 28:24 of the first half when Nock set up Simpson, who has tallied 11 points (7g, 4a) the past two games. Puccia finished a feed from Simpson at 25:01 to give the home team a 2-0 lead, but Vandy responded with goals by Kacie Connors (at 22:31), Wheeler (22:31) and Bakker (14:26) to take a 3-2 advantage.
The 'Cats struck in transition to level the score, 3-3, at 12:57 when Hinkle slipped a pass from the right wing to Simpson in front. Vanderbilt responded with three consecutive goals to build the largest lead of the game, 6-3. Priddy scored on a restart from the top of the fan at 10:38, then Carey netted a free-position goal at 8:55 and Linthicum finished Kacie Connors' feed at 8:55.
The duo of Cohen and Puccia produced goals at 6:36 and 3:28 to lift UNH within 6-5 heading into halftime.
Connors opened the second-half scoring at 29:41, but that was answered at 26:32 when Puccia found Simpson in front of the cage to push the score to 7-6. Pittinger potted a free-position goal at 24:09, then Keagins dodged down the right side of the fan to score an unassisted goal at 21:19 to once again pull the Wildcats within one goal, 8-7, and extend her goal-scoring streak to 11 games. Kacie Connors found Linthicum at the left post to give the visitors a two-goal advantage at 19:33.
UNH closed the game on a 5-2 run to record the come-from-behind victory. The Wildcats had lost 11 consecutive games against nationally-ranked teams dating back to February 2010, when they defeated 16th-ranked Dartmouth College (9-8 at Memorial Field).
New Hampshire returns to America East conference action March 31 (2 p.m.) at the University of Vermont. The Wildcats' next home game is April 14 (1 p.m.) against the University at Albany.