As time expired at Geasey Field, the Owls, led by senior defender Summer Jaros, ran toward redshirt-senior goalkeeper Jaqi Kakalecik with excitement. They all embraced and celebrated as the scoreboard at the other end of the field showed an 11-4 win against Georgetown University.
The Owls (12-5, 4-3 Big East) had achieved the goal they set for themselves in the fall. They are going to Washington D.C. for the Big East tournament.
“It’s like so amazing,” senior attacker Megan Pinkerton said. “I feel like we come in every school year in the fall and we always say, ‘our goal is to make it to the Big East tournament,’ and we’re always talking it up, and now we’re finally there so it’s just awesome.”
Instead of walking in graduation, the Owls’ 13 seniors will head to the Big East tournament, the school’s first appearance in the conference tournament since leaving the Atlantic-10 Conference after the 2013 season. The Owls needed to defeat the Hoyas Saturday to make the tournament. Heading into play, Georgetown, Temple and Marquette University were competing for two spots.
The University of Florida, No. 2 in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association poll, won all seven of its conference games to earn the top seed in the tournament. Connecticut finished 6-1 in Big East play to earn the second seed.
The Owls are the No. 3 seed and Georgetown qualifies for the Big East Championships for the tenth consecutive season as the final seed.
Temple will play UConn on Thursday at 7 p.m. at tournament host Georgetown’s Cooper Field.
The Owls fought back from a 4-1 halftime deficit, but lost to the Huskies 9-8 in overtime on April 13 at Geasey Field.
“I think we just have to play our game,” senior attacker Avery Longstaff said. “I mean, if we come out with the intensity that we came out with today and play together…I think we should have won when we played them before and we lost by one in overtime. We were so there. It was there for us to have. So we just have to go out and play our game, play together, and I think we earned it so I think we’ll get it.”
After freshman attacker Taylor Gebhardt gave the Hoyas a 1-0 lead one minute, 31 seconds into play, the Owls responded with five consecutive goals, prompting a timeout by Georgetown. The Hoyas scored to stop the run, but the Owls closed out the first half with a 3-0 run. The Owls never trailed after Pinkerton’s free position goal with 27:15 left broke the 1-1 tie.
Seven players scored for the Owls including Pinkerton, Longstaff, junior midfielder Morgan Glassford and senior attacker Rachel Schwaab, who each scored twice. Schwaab, who also had two assists, and senior midfielder Megan Tiernan each had four points in the win. Kakalecik, who ranks No. 7 in Division I in goals against average, saved 10-of-14 shots on goal.
The team has now won three straight games after losing to Marquette two weeks ago.
“The Marquette game was a wake up call,” coach Bonnie Rosen said. “It was recognizing that we were feeling a lot of pressure, that we were going to have to work, and I think if I look back at this team they just focused on working. I don’t know that they knew for sure how it would turn out, but they worked and worked themselves through that kind of pressure stuff and we’ve just gotten better since then. So I think that Marquette was a really important game for us to actually put us in the position to play well today.”
At halftime, the Owls celebrated Championship and Alumnae Day. Several former players, including two of the captains of the 2015 team Molly Seefried and Carli Fitzgerald, and 2014 leading scorer Jaymie Tabor. Members of the 1984 and 1988 National Championship teams, including coach Tina Sloan-Green, were also honored at midfield.
The last person called to midfield was Rachel Hall, who will walk in this year’s graduation after being critically injured in a hit-and-run last year. After the game she posed for photos in her graduation cap, decorated in stars-and-stripes, and gown, as she talked with former teammates.
“I think sometimes after a game like this you’d feel relief but for me this was just a pure joy ending,” Rosen said. “The way we played the game, we just really owned the game and players really stepped up. And then to do that in front of a great home crowd and the people who’ve won national championships in this program, and to see Rachel Hall back here, and to have the support of our administration … and against a team like Georgetown who is always so strong and gives us such a tough game and we haven’t been able to beat them in quite a while. So every little piece was there to make it one of those games that’s just one of those to remember.”