Robert Morris unraveled by Youngstown State in regular-season finale


Julia Davies looks to weave around Aryss Lindsey of Youngstown State. Photo credit: Tyler Gallo

Tyler Gallo

MOON TOWNSHIP– With their heartbreaking first-ever MAC loss now in the rearview mirror, Robert Morris women’s lacrosse was looking to bounce back and clinch the MAC regular-season title outright with a victory over local rival Youngstown State.

Despite holding a four-goal lead in the third quarter, a late surge by the Penguins (10-7, 8-2 MAC) and uncharacteristic errors knocked off the Colonials (8-8, 8-2) in a 19-17 shootout.

Head coach Katrina Silva saw her team trounce the Penguins in 18-7 Youngstown on March 23, but noted the difference in tone for the YSU roster coming into this game.

“[Youngstown State] was hungry, and they worked hard for [the win],” she said. “We knew the plan, we just didn’t execute; we gave them six goals in the first quarter. We were not executing the plans we had in place. Then, we made some changes and saw some results, but we just spent a lot of time on defense.”

Despite being flightless birds, the Penguins came out flying in a hotly contested first quarter. Some good defense led to offense as they scored the game’s first three goals, forcing Katrina Silva to burn a timeout.

The timeout brought RMU back from the brink of a deep hole, and offensive life followed. Colleen Tifft opened the floodgates with a beautiful goal while falling, and three different Colonials players followed suit to get their first lead of the game.

This forced up a YSU timeout, and out of the timeout, the teams went back and forth, getting the score tied at 8 with less than a minute remaining.

Jenna Irwin gained a free-position attempt with nine seconds left, burying a momentum goal to send the Colonials into the break up by one.

However, at the end of the half, Jenna Irwin went down with an apparent injury and did not return to the contest. Late-season injuries have plagued the Colonials, also losing Madi Griffin last week, and Silva pointed to the Irwin injury as one of the turning points.

“We’ve had two significant injuries in two games, one to Madi Griffin who is our leader, our captain and our calming force, and I think Jenna’s injury really rattled us in the second quarter,” Silva said. “We needed to find a way to get everyone else to step up, and it takes time. When you get injured late in the year, it’s a scramble to move forward. We will figure it out.”

Jamie Keller opened the second quarter making some big saves to keep the Colonials ahead.

Robert Morris used this momentum to pull further ahead in the second quarter. Although the Penguins scored a goal early on, RMU led 11-9 heading into halftime on the strength of another Keller save.

Mackenzie Bell got the scoring rolling in the second half, cutting through defenders and ripping a goal by Savannah Clarke to stretch the lead to three.

Colleen Tifft followed a few minutes later to give Robert Morris its largest lead of the game, putting the spread at four.

All the momentum turned in the Penguins’ favor following this goal, finding a second edge they did not have in the second quarter.

YSU fought back with four unanswered tallies in the middle of the third quarter to knot the game up, including a rocket of an equalizer from Natalie Calandra-Ryan, making sure that the game would go down to the wire.

Ali Korin’s sixth goal of the game directly after this put the Penguins in front for the first time since the second quarter, leading 14-13 and forcing another Silva timeout.

Robert Morris used this timeout to re-focus. Kelsey Nelson got a strong pass from Jerica Obee and finished off the long run to tie the game at 14.

Keller and Clarke traded saves in the late portion of the third, and the score was 14-all heading into the final frame.

The teams exchanged blows early on in the fourth quarter with YSU holding a 16-15 edge with 11 minutes remaining.

Robert Morris had an extended chance to tie the game, but a save and some key missed shots left the Colonials without a goal, and Korin scored a dagger to make it a two-goal advantage.

Savannah Clarke made a massive save, and YSU went down and scored after Jamie Keller vacated the crease.

Colleen Tifft and Lilli Hadden added goals to fight back late, but the Penguins never relinquished the lead, winning 19-17.

Robert Morris honored its five seniors following the game, Jamie Keller, Kelsey Nelson, Alex Eckert, Bailey Christianson and Emilie Kim. Silva had a ton of praise to dish out to the five players after the game.

“They’re positive, they’re upbeat, they’re loving, they’re all the qualities of our program that we’re proud of,” she said. “Winning and losing is a big part, but being great ambassadors for the sport and school, that’s what I really admire and care for, and these guys do a great job of showing that.”

With the two-loss slide to end their regular season schedule, Robert Morris will now turn their attention to the MAC Tournament next week.