No. 18 Louisville Tops Rutgers for Share of Big East Title

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It was an emotional for the Louisville lacrosse program. Before the game, the Cardinals paid tribute to their nine seniors with an emotional ceremony, and after the contest, Louisville celebrated in jubilation with its first Big East regular-season title.

Behind goals from seven different players and another solid performance in the cage from freshman Ashley Peacock, Louisville (12-3, 6-0 Big East) powered its way past Rutgers 18-6 on Saturday at the UofL Lacrosse Stadium. The win ensured Louisville at least a share of the conference's regular-season crown.

Senior Nikki Boltja, one of the most accomplished players in school history, logged four goals and one assist in helping Louisville to its continuing school record eighth-consecutive win. With her five points, she moved into second place on the school's career points list with 212.

Classmates Colleen O'Malley and Jamie Redding combined for three goals and two assists, and Peacock made five saves for her second career win.

“I am a little bit speechless because we have worked really hard to get to this place,” head coach Kellie Young said on clinching the title. “It is something that we have talked about for seven years of this program. So, to finally accomplish it, I am not only proud of this team of seniors but all the players who have come before and worked really hard to build a confident and determined program here.”

Louisville dictated the tempo the entire second half. The Cardinals outshot the Scarlet Knights 21-4, held a 9-1 advantage in ground balls, won 10 draw controls to Rutgers' three, and forced Rutgers into eight turnovers.

After scoring the first six goals of the period in just the first eight minutes, the Cardinals had grown the lead to 10.

Faye Brust earned a free-position attempt less than two minutes into play, scoring one of Louisville's six goals from the eight-meter position. Cortnee Daley tacked on another goal via a free-position opportunity, and then Brust scored her fourth of five goals on Boltja's 18th assist of the season. Boltja netted her first goal of the game, Kaylin Morissette tacked on a score, and Boltja's tally – her team-leading 59th of the season – to cap the run and put Louisville ahead 14-4.

Rutgers' Megan Clements stopped the running clock with her second goal of the game, but the Cardinals' regained a double-digit lead on Morissette's 32nd score of the year.

Daley, Brust, and Anna Kopecka scored three of the game's final four goals – with Kopecka's coming with two seconds left on the clock – before the horn blew, solidifying the Cardinals' share of the conference title.

“Tears,” Young said she felt when the clock read all zeros. “It's overwhelming. I am incredibly proud of this team. We have been through a lot – some of it from our own choices. These 18- and 22-year olds recovered with such maturity and with such confidence while deciding that the past is the past and now they are moving forward. To grow up is what I want them to do as a coach. I want to watch 18 year olds come in and grow into women and know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. I am really proud.”

Morissette not only finished with a hat trick, but she had 11 draw controls and just one turnover in the game. Senior Monica Negron also had a strong showing, collecting five draw controls and a team-best three ground balls. Co-captain and classmate Hillary Bushway recorded one of seven caused turnovers in the victory.

“This group of seniors is special,” Young said. “They have stood by each other, been really strong leaders, made good decisions on the field, and worked hard on their games on their own. They have driven this program to where we are this year. First years, sophomores, and juniors have really followed their lead, and we win games like this because of all the time they put in their own work without coaches watching.

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