2014-04-10 / Sports

UNE has no answers as Gordon rolls to a win

By CAMERON DUNBAR Staff Writer

University of New England junior attacker Gina Newsome, center, looks for a way past Gordon College defender Aly Towie (5) and goalie Danielle Maguire (17) during the Nor'easters' 15-6 defeat on Wednesday afternoon at the Big Blue Turf in Biddeford. (CAMERON DUNBAR/Journal Tribune)

BIDDEFORD — When the Gordon College and University of New England women's lacrosse teams met on the Big Blue Turf for a crucial Commonwealth Coast Conference clash Wednesday afternoon, it was a game between one team trending upwards and another trending down.

After 60 minutes of play, there was little question as to what team was heading in each direction.

After trailing 4-3 early on, the Fighting Scots asserted their dominance thanks to Stephanie Fitzgerald of the faceoff circle and never looked back, scoring the final seven goals before halftime and largely toying with the Nor'easters in the second half on the way to a 15-6 victory.

The win moved Gordon, which UNE knocked out of last year's conference playoffs, to 9-3 overall and 4-1 in conference play this season.

On the other side, it was the third-straight heavy defeat for UNE (6-6), which has lost four of its last five and dropped to 1-3 in CCC play.

Fitzgerald, a 5-foot, 10-inch senior who holds the Gordon record for most draws controlled, added nine to her career mark Wednesday, helping the Fighting Scots control 19 of the 23 draws overall.

“The draw was huge for us,” Gordon coach Cory Ward said. “We have that senior draw specialist, and today was a day for her to come out and just win the draws. We told her she had to win the draws in order for us to win the game, and we won all but four. That's a big day for us.”

UNE's draw specialist, senior captain Johanna Currier, has been out since the third game of the season with an injury and won't be back this season. It's an absence that has hurt the Nor'easters all year. UNE has won 129 draw controls in all, compared to 199 for its opponents ”“ but was especially critical against Gordon.

“We weren't winning the draws. We're still trying to figure it out and how we work together,” UNE coach Sue Estabrook said. “We're missing some of our leadership out there, and I think that's been hurting us. She had leadership on the field, and we don't have that coming through as much with a different mix of people out there.”

Crucially, with her team down 4-3 after a goal from UNE's Gina Newsome with 17 minutes left in the first half, Fitzgerald controlled the next six draws as her team scored six-straight goals in a span of 8:01.

UNE didn't have a second of possession that entire time, allowing the Fighting Scots to build possession and work the ball around, setting up easy chances right in front of goalie Courtney Kendall's cage as Jessica Castelline scored three of her game-high four goals in quick succession.

“We were able to get open, be patient with the ball and look for those cuts,” Ward said. “Their goalie was really aggressive. She's good, but she made some mistakes coming out that allowed us to get some goals.”

After Kelly Linehan put Gordon up 11-4 early in the second half, the Nor'easters got to within five on back-to-back goals from Jessica Deedon and Nikki Smith.

But Jane Dietrich got the Gordon advantage back up to 12-6, and from there, the Fighting Scots went into keep-away mode, holding the ball for long stretches in a stall but still scoring three times in the final 11 minutes for a convincing nine-goal victory.

“We tried to change things up, but it's all about the draw and who can win it,” Estabrook said. “That's really it.”

The Nor'easters face another conference foe on Saturday when Nichols (7-4, 2-2 CCC) comes to Biddeford. Like the Fighting Scots, the Bison are a team also on the up after winning their past three games ”“ two of them against conference opponents ”“ by a total of 35 goals.

UNE, on the other hand, has been outscored 52-18 over its past three games, and, with only four games of the regular season left, is in desperate need of change.

“We have to move forward and play as a team in order to win. We're playing a little individualized and not as a group. If we play together, we have a lot of talent and can pull it together,” Estabrook said. “I think we get a little comfortable in practice, and then on the field, we panic. It's not lack of effort, it's just we try to do things on our own and forget about everything we did (in practice).”

Staff Writer Cameron Dunbar can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or cdunbar@journaltribune.com.

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