Monmouth Downs Mount St. Mary's to Claim NEC Crown

FAIRFIELD, Conn. Third-seeded Monmouth won its fourth Northeast Conference championship overall and first since 2007 with an 113 victory over fourth-seeded Mount St. Mary's on Sunday afternoon at Sacred Heart's Campus Field. The Hawks now advance to the NCAA Tournament, where they will take on the Colonial Athletic Association champion.

MU rode a historic defensive performance to the 2012 title, allowing the fewest goals in NEC Tournament history in the process. The Hawks gave up seven combined goals in their two conference tournament wins, besting the previous mark of nine allowed by UMBC en route to its 2002 title.

For the second straight tournament match, MU kept its opponent off the scoreboard for an elongated long stretch of competition; the Hawks kept the Mountaineers off the scoreboard on Sunday for 54 minutes in the middle of the match, turning a 2-1 deficit into an 11-2 lead.

"I thought we played well," said MU Head Coach Denise Wescott. "I thought offensively we were a little tentative early but our defense put a lot of pressure on them. That allowed our offense to settle down and get some late goals. At the end Katie made some point blank saves too. Our defense have been solid all year. Offensively once we settled in we got some good looks."

Monmouth freshman keeper Katie Donohoe (Peterborough, Ontario/ Holy Cross Catholic Secondary), who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, was stellar all weekend for the Hawks, capping off her championship performance with 11 saves against the Mount.

The Hawks were led offensively by Sam Lillo's (Short Hills, N.J. /Millburn) four goals and Kaleigh Gibbons' (Candia, N.H./ Manchester Central) three goals and two assists. Those two, along with defender Kim McCormick (Springfield, Pa. /Springfield), were selected to the all-tournament team.

Monmouth pushed its two-goal halftime cushion to three goals when First Team All-NEC midfielder Kaleigh Gibbons (Candia, N.H./Manchester Central/RMU) scored for the second time in the game, this one coming at the 24:24 mark. Sophomore Danielle Rakowitz (Montville, N.J./Montville) pushed the Hawks in front 6-2 just over three minutes later off a feed from Allison Stathius (Delran, N.J./Delran). The Hawks continued to put the pressure on offensively, while Donohoe turned away shot after shot by the Mountaineers.

The Mount took a 1-0 lead on a Lindsay Diaz free position goal in the first two minutes of the contest but just over a minute later Lillo scored the equalizer. The Mountaineers retook the lead with 24:51 to play on a Hannah Gutcher goal. Gibbons tied the game up for Mounmouth on a free posisiton goal, beating Mount goalie Brigid McTavish low with 14:08 showing in the first half.

Sophomore Alex Marino (Howell, N.J./Freehold Twp.) gave the Hawks the lead after taking a feed from Gibbons with 7:32 to play. Lillo added another marker with just less than five minutes to play and the Hawks led 4-2. The Hawks took that two-goal lead into the break and after 30 minutes of play MU led in shots 12-5 and committed just four turnovers compared with the Mountaineer's nine.

Lynn White (Deer Park, N.Y. /Deer Park) and Erica Abendschoen (West Caldwell, N.J. /James Caldwell) also added goals for the Hawks in the final, while freshman Allison Stathuis (Delran, N.J. /Delran) contributed an assist. MU outshot the Mountaineers, 27-18 in the match, while winning nine draw controls, compared to seven for the Mount.

The Hawks will play the CAA Champion next weekend.

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2012-04-29



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