GREENVILLE, S.C. – In a face-paced, back and forth game, the Mercer Bears pulled out a 15-14 win over the Furman Paladins in double overtime to claim their second straight SoCon Women’s Lacrosse Championship on Saturday afternoon in Paladin Stadium. Hailey Rhatigan scored eight of the Bears 15 goals, including the game winner, and was named the 2019 SoCon Women’s Lacrosse Championship Most Outstanding Player. Her eight goals in the contest is a league single-game record.
Furman struck first less than two minutes into the game off a goal by Grace Pollak, a Southern Conference First-Team selection. Just a few minutes later, Mercer’s Hailey Rhatigan, the 2019 SoCon Freshman of the Year, found the back of the net twice, once on a free position shot, to put the Bears up 2-1.
With 20:22 left in the first half, Furman’s Hannah Feinberg scored her 10th goal of the year and evened the score before teammate Hannah Demis netted her 29th of the season less than a minute later to put the Paladins ahead 3-2.
A foul by Furman’s Regan Lingo set up another goal on a free position shot by Rhatigan and the teams were tied for the third time.
Mercer’s Eva Thorn found the back of the net off a pass from Audrey Robertson, a SoCon first team defender, two minutes later and Rhatigan pushed the lead to 5-3 seconds after. Furman’s Abby Shields, an all-conference first team attack, netted her 37th goal of the year on a free position shot with 11:56 left in the first half, but Rhatigan answered with a free position goal of her own, her 60th of the year, 40 seconds later to push the lead back to two. Kyra LaMotte scored on back-to-back free position shots and evened the score at six.
With eight minutes left in the opening half, Rhatigan netted her sixth of the game. The teams were scoreless for the next three and a half minutes before Shields took advantage of a man-up opportunity and tied the game at seven. Rhatigan tacked on another goal, her seventh of the half, with 38 seconds to go and Mercer took a narrow 8-7 lead into the locker room at the break.
Furman came out strong at the start of the second half, scoring the first two goals to take a 9-8 lead. Mercer answered with goals from Thorn and Robertson and went on top 10-9. Just over a minute later, Shields tied it at 10, but Mercer’s Catie Snee scored on an assist from Sami Van Slyke to put the Bears in front. The teams continued to trade goals as Demis netted another for the Paladins on a pass from Shields with just under 21 minutes to go in regulation.
Despite the initial onslaught of goals to open the half, neither teams scored for the next 13 minutes before Mercer’s Kelly Hagerty broke the drought and gave Mercer a 12-11 lead. Sophie Brennan, a SoCon first team selection, was fouled and converted on a free position shot, tying the game with 7:23 left, but Hagerty put Mercer in front 13-12 30 seconds later. Hagerty scored her third goal in a four minute span as she pushed the lead to 14-12 with four minutes left. Down two, Furman got a goal from Pollak on a pass from Shields with 3:17 left and Isabelle Walsh tied it with 2:40, scoring her 17th goal of the year off a pass from Demis. Paladins’ goalkeeper Courtney Baker, a SoCon First-Team selection, made two saves in the final two minutes to force overtime.
Teams were held scoreless in the first overtime period and with 1:40 left in the second overtime, Rhatigan scored on an assist from Snee, her eighth of the game and 63rd of the season, and clinched the victory for the Bears.
Mercer’s Kendall Garrett earned the Pinnacle Award for the second straight year, which is given to the player with the highest grade point average from the championship winning team. Garrett, a senior from Plano, Texas, is a finance major with a 3.95 grade point average.
Mercer earns an automatic bid to the 2019 NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Tournament. The selection show takes place on Sunday, May 5, at 9 p.m.
SoCon Women’s Lacrosse Championship All-Tournament Team
Emma Hamilton, Central Michigan
Shannon Doyle, Central Michigan
Taryn McManus, Detroit Mercy
Sarah Lucas, Detroit Mercy
Hannah Demis, Furman
Courtney Baker, Furman
Avery Whitehead, Furman
Audrey Robertson, Mercer
Hannah Lind, Mercer
Iseabel Cryne, Mercer
Kelly Hagerty, Mercer
Hailey Rhatigan, Mercer
SoCon Women’s Lacrosse Championship Most Outstanding Player
Hailey Rhatigan, Mercer
SoCon Women’s Lacrosse Championship Pinnacle Award Winner
Kendall Garrett, Mercer
SoCon Women’s Lacrosse Semifinals Thursday, May 2
Game 1: No. 4 Central Michigan 9, No. 1 Mercer 13
Game 2: No. 3 Furman 12, No. 2 Detroit Mercy 8
SoCon Women’s Lacrosse Championship Saturday, May 4
No. 2 Furman 14, No. 1 Mercer 15