by Lukas Cimbal
The Hope College women's lacrosse team aimed to keep the magic going after a stunning upset of No. 1 seed Saint Mary's College on Wednesday in the MIAA Tournament semifinals.
The Flying Dutch nearly did.
Hope came back from an early, eight-goal deficit in Saturday's MIAA Tournament final at Albion College to tie the game three times during the second half. Albion, however, scored twice over the final 2 minutes, 40 seconds for a 16-14 victory.
Hope finished its season with an overall mark of 11-6. The 11 wins are a team record for a single season. Albion (14-4) advanced to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
"We talked about after the game that (my players) have so much to be proud of," head coach Kim Vincent said. "The records that we've broken both as a team and individually this year have been amazing.
"We've never had such a strong group of players that have played so well together. I'm just so proud of each and every one of them."
After eight goals in 12 minutes, 1 seconds from Albion to start the game, sophomore midfielder Paige Wilmer of Columbus, Ohio (Upper Arlington HS) broke the ice for Hope when she scored on a free position shot with 17:41 left in the first half.
Sophomore midfielder Carly Pieri, pictured above, of Alto, Michigan (Caledonia HS) scored three first-half goals as the Flying Dutch would score six of the next seven goals to cut their halftime deficit to just 9-7.
"The last game (against Saint Mary's) was kind of like today, but in reverse," Vincent said. "It took us a little bit (of time) to get our feet under us in the first half, but once we did, we were on fire and we got back in it."
Added Pieri, "The first few minutes (of the game) there were a lot of nerves and jitters that we needed to get out of our system. Once we did that, we all played with so much heart and passion to get back in the game. We were all playing as one unit."
Pieri finished five goals and three assists.
She set the school record for goals in a season with 51. She passed Maddie Ferguson's 2013.
Pieri also earned a share of the team record for assists in the season. She and teammate Madison Micho, pictured left, of Grand Rapids, Michigan (East Grand Rapids) had 21 assists this season to eclipse Alexandra Webb's 2017 total of 19.
It was a back-and-forth second half, with Hope twice falling behind by three goals. The Flying Dutch charged back with goals from freshman Madison McCreery of Rockford, Michigan (Rockford HS). Wilmer and Pieri tied the score for the first time since the opening face-off at 11-11 with 14:05 left to go.
Albion jumped ahead 14-12 with 5:52 remaining, but Pieri's final goal and Allison Darnell's second goal of the game equalized the game at 14-14 with 3:21 to play.
The Britons' Destiny Okon recorded the go-ahead goal with 2:40 left. Darcy Muns added the clincher with 34 seconds to go.
"Albion is a good team and they outplayed us by two goals," Vincent said. "We have a young team and there is a lot to look forward to next year for all of them. If this wasn't our year, then maybe next year is the year."
Despite the 2019 season coming to an end, Pieri is excited for Hope's prospects in 2020.
The Flying Dutch graduate only two seniors: Darnell, a forward from Farmington HIlls, Michigan (North Farmington) and Bailey Berberich, a defender from Clarendon Hills, Illinois (Hinsdale Central).
"We all want (a championship), so we're gonna work hard all summer and come in strong next year to try and get it," Pieri said.