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NU women's lacrosse routs Monmouth, advances to MAAC semis


NIAGARA UNIV. -- On Saturday afternoon, the Niagara Purple Eagles women's lacrosse team opened the MAAC Women's Lacrosse Championships at Niagara Field for a second straight season. Fourth-seeded Niagara used a 12-goal first half, including an 11-0 run in a span of 19 minutes approaching halftime, to lead the way to a 16-4 rout of the fifth-seeded Monmouth Hawks.

Rachel MacCheyne led the Purple Eagles with seven points, including a career-high six goals on seven shots on goal and adding one assist. Caroline Crump set up the offense well with four assists, adding two goals of her own. Grace Hunt also tallied three assists to tie the Niagara single-season program record with 38.

Defensively, senior Kara Martin led Niagara with four ground balls and added one draw control and one caused turnover. Alexandra Higgins turned in another dominant day on the circle, earning nine draw controls and tallying two ground balls and two caused turnovers.

Niagara advances to the semifinal round for the first time in 14 years, and the Purple Eagles look ahead to a matchup with the top-seeded Canisius Golden Griffins on Friday, May 5. Canisius is hosting the final two rounds of the MAAC Women's Lacrosse Championship at the Demske Sports Complex in Buffalo.

Monmouth opened the game on a 2-1 run, including the game's first goal from Caroline Corbliss 2:23 into the contest. Grace Hunt fed Rachel MacCheyne to tie the game for Niagara 50 seconds later, but the Hawks reclaimed the lead with a goal by Jenny Staines. Hailey D'Hont's first goal of the day at the 21:44 mark ignited an 11-goal run for the Purple Eagles, as the team shut out Monmouth for the next 19 minutes. Caroline Crump set up Audrey Fithall to give Niagara a 3-2 lead 9:53 into the game, a lead they would not relinquish. Crump led the Purple Eagles with two goals and three assists in the 11-goal run, and Rachel MacCheyne scored four times. A second tally from D'Hont along with goals from Jillian Ford and Alexis Morales put Niagara up 12-2 late in the first half. Monmouth's Alexa Smith converted a free-position opportunity to end the Niagara run with 2:44 left in the opening stanza, putting the halftime score at 12-3 in favor of the Purple Eagles. Niagara outshot Monmouth 26-6 through 30 minutes. Goalkeeper Andrea Francisco made two early second-half saves for Niagara, but the Hawks would pick up the first goal of the second 4:47 past halftime as Staines set up Alex Stambaugh for the goal. From that point, however, Niagara shut out the Hawks, with Francisco adding four more saves in the final 25 minutes. Hawks goalkeeper Riley Brager stopped eight Niagara shots in the second half, giving her a total of 15 saves for the game, but the Purple Eagles' offense retained its overwhelming lead. MacCheyne picked up her sixth goal of the game off of a free-position chance before Grace Hunt set up D'Hont to make it a ten-goal Niagara lead at 14-4 with 13:06 to play. In the closing minutes, MacCheyne assisted on Fithall's second goal of the day and Crump fed Morales for a tally with 46 seconds to play, ending the game in a momentous 16-4 victory for Niagara.

With the first-round victory, Niagara advances to the semifinal round of the MAAC Women's Lacrosse Championships for the first time since 2003. The fourth-seeded Purple Eagles are set to take on the first-seeded Canisius Golden Griffins in Buffalo on Friday, May 5. The winner of the Niagara-Canisius semifinal matchup will play for the MAAC title on Sunday, May 7. All three games in the final weekend of the MAAC tournament will be broadcast on ESPN3.