ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Niagara women's lacrosse team plays its final non-conference game of the 2017 season on Tuesday, making the trip to Ann Arbor for a third straight season to play against the University of Michigan Wolverines. Niagara is 3-5 through its first eight non-conference games this season, sporting wins over St. Bonaventure, Mount St. Mary's, and Stetson.
Niagara hosted the Fairfield Stags last Saturday in a rematch of last season's first-round matchup from the 2016 MAAC Championships. After a wild second period where the two teams combined for 15 goals, Fairfield came out on top by a final score of 14-10. Trailing 3-0 after 20 minutes of play, Niagara got on the board with 7:45 left until the half with a free-position goal from Mackenzie Molodetz. Alexis Morales set up Jillian Ford for a goal 2:42 later, drawing the Purple Eagles within one. Fairfield would close the first period on a 3-1 run. Niagara goalkeeper Andrea Francisco turned in a strong effort with eight saves through the first 30 minutes, but Fairfield led 6-3 at the half. Caroline Crump opened the second-period scoring just 37 seconds in, but Fairfield then went on a 5-1 run to take an 11-5 lead midway through the period, the largest lead of the game. A 5-2 Niagara run got the Purple Eagles within three with five minutes to go. Grace Hunt had a hand in four of Niagara's five goals during that run, scoring her eighth of the season and assisting on three of the other four. Fairfield scored the final goal of the game, a free-position tally from Scarlett Sulliman, with 4:20 to play while holding the Purple Eagles scoreless the rest of the way for the 14-10 final.
The Purple Eagles currently sit in fourth place in the MAAC with six conference games left on the regular-season schedule. Niagara ranks fourth in the MAAC in scoring offense, averaging 11 goals for per game, up from 8.72 goals per game a season ago. Rachel MacCheyne and Alexis Morales lead Niagara and are tied for third in the MAAC with 27 goals this season. MacCheyne is tied for fifth in the conference with 33 total points, while Morales is tied for ninth at 31 points. Grace Hunt's 23 assists this season are the eighth-most in a single season in Niagara program history. Hunt would need 16 more assists to break the program record set by Sandra Gallegos (38) in 2002. At the defensive end, Niagara also ranks fourth in the MAAC with 11.80 goals against per game. The Purple Eagles lead the MAAC in caused turnovers per game (10.5) and draw controls per game (13.5) while ranking fourth in the conference with 19.2 ground balls per game. Junior Alexandra Higgins, a Preseason All-MAAC Team member, leads the Purple Eagles and the MAAC with 57 draw controls. Her team-leading 28 ground balls and 17 caused turnovers rank fifth and third, respectively, in the conference. Jillian Ford joins Higgins in the MAAC top 10 for both draw controls (sixth, 28) and caused turnovers (T-fourth, 16) while ranking fourth among the Purple Eagles with 19 ground balls. Ford is also fifth on Niagara in scoring with 18 points (13+5). In goal, Andrea Francisco ranks fourth in the MAAC in goals-against average (11.66) and sixth in save percentage (.455).
On Tuesday, Michigan plays host to Niagara for a third-straight season. The Wolverines have won both matchups on March 14, 2015 (15-8) and April 12, 2016 (13-1). Michigan returns to Ann Arbor after playing the No. 1 Maryland Terrapins on the road on Saturday, a 20-7 loss for the Wolverines.
Michigan was defeated 18-10 by Canisius in the team's only other matchup against a MAAC team this season. Jess Angerman leads Michigan with 34 points (21+13) this season. Her 13 assists are a Michigan team-high, while Kim Coughlan leads the Wolverines with 24 goals. Anna Schueler is second on Michigan in scoring at 30 points (18+12) and she leads the team with 64 draw controls to go with eight ground balls and 10 caused turnovers. Defensively, the Wolverines are led by Emily Braun who has a team-high 24 ground balls and 19 caused turnovers in addition to 19 draw controls. In goal, Michigan has split time between Mira Shane and Alli Kothari. In eight starts, Kothari is 1-7 with a 12.25 goals-against average and .418 save percentage. Shane is 3-2 in five starts with a 12.74 goals-against average and .398 save percentage.