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Friday, April 14, 2017

NU women's lacrosse starts 2-game homestand vs. Monmouth

All WNY News     Friday, April 14, 2017    

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Currently on a two-game winning streak, the Niagara women's lacrosse team is off to a 3-1 start in MAAC play and holds the third seed in the standings halfway through the conference regular-season schedule. After a 15-9 win at Siena on Wednesday, the Purple Eagles are back in action at Niagara Field for a two-game homestand, starting Saturday morning at 11 a.m. against the Monmouth Hawks.

Niagara picked up a 15-9 win at Siena on April 12, moving to 3-1 in MAAC play for the first time since 2003. The Purple Eagles dominated the first 30 minutes of play offensively, turning a 27-8 shots advantage into an 8-4 lead at the half. Caroline Crump scored the first three Niagara goals of the game, and Rachel MacCheyne scored three of Niagara's five goals in a late first-period run. MacCheyne finished the game with her fifth five-point outing of the season, leading all Purple Eagles with four goals and one assist. Audrey Fithall (2+1), Jillian Ford (2+1), and Grace Hunt (1+2) all tallied three points in the win. Senior goalkeeper Andrea Francisco stopped 12 of the Saints' 21 shots on goal, her fourth consecutive game and fifth in six games with double-digit saves. Alexandra Higgins finished with five ground balls for a third straight game, adding six draw controls and one caused turnovers.

Several Purple Eagles are making their marks in the program record books this season. On defense, Alexandra Higgins has the highest recorded single-season totals in Niagara program history with 71 draw controls and 25 caused turnovers, and she needs two ground balls to surpass Kara Martin's total of 44 from the 2015 campaign. At attack, Grace Hunt leads the MAAC with 30 assists, which is currently the fourth-highest single-season total for a Purple Eagle. Hunt needs nine more assists to break Sandra Gallegos' single-season record of 38, set in 2003. Hunt's 45 career assists put her sixth in program history. Sophomores Rachel MacCheyne's 37 goals this season rank eighth in program history, while Alexis Morales is one goal away from tying for tenth at 34 goals. With 428 career saves, including a career-high 121 this season, goalkeeper Andrea Francisco needs 12 more saves to pass Michelle Nucci for third in program history.

The Purple Eagles currently sit in third place in the MAAC with four games remaining in the regular season. The Niagara defense has allowed just 42 goals in four conference games, and that goals-against average of 10.50 is third in the MAAC. At the offensive end, the Purple Eagles are also third in conference play with 12.25 goals for per game. Niagara has the second-most goals of any MAAC team coming off of assists, as the team averages 6.75 assists per conference game. On the season, Rachel MacCheyne is Niagara's leading scorer with 37 goals and 46 points. She is fourth in the MAAC in goals and fifth in points. MacCheyne has also been a force in the transition game, causing 10 turnovers and collecting 12 ground balls to go with 25 draw controls. Grace Hunt is the first MAAC player to eclipse the 30-assist plateau this season, adding 10 goals to tie for eighth in the conference with 40 total points. Sophomore Alexis Morales is tenth in the MAAC in scoring, totaling 38 points on 34 goals and four assists. Junior Alexandra Higgins, a Preseason All-MAAC Team member, is the only player in the conference to rank in the top three in ground balls (third, 43), draw controls (second, 71), and caused turnovers (third, 25). All three of those figures are tops among the Purple Eagles. Jillian Ford joins Higgins in the MAAC's top ten for both draw controls and caused turnovers, ranking ninth with 35 draw controls and seventh with 19 caused turnovers. She is also fifth on Niagara in scoring with 22 points (16+6) and ranks fourth on the team with 22 ground balls. Senior defender Kara Martin is second on the Purple Eagles with 29 ground balls and third with 14 caused turnovers.

The Monmouth Hawks come to Monteagle Ridge for their first game since last Saturday, an 18-3 home loss to MAAC leader Canisius. The Hawks currently hold the fifth seed in the MAAC with wins over Quinnipiac (12-8 on March 25) and Marist (13-10 on April 1). Monmouth holds a 4-1 lead over Niagara in the all-time series, with the Purple Eagles' lone win coming in a 12-8 win at West Long Branch on April 5, 2014. Monmouth is led offensively by freshman attack Nicole Ceraso, who has 40 points (16+24) this season. Senior Olivia Higson has a team-high 28 goals to go with six assists. Caroline Corbliss leads Monmouth with 25 ground balls and 39 draw controls, while Monica Cortes has caused a team-high 15 turnovers. In goal, the Hawks are led by sophomore Riley Brager, who is 3-8 with a 13.86 goals-against average, .419 save percentage, and 108 total saves.

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