ANNAPOLIS, MD - Navy's women's lacrosse players made it clear that they are not in the NCAA tournament this time to enjoy the experience. After three years of first-round losses, the eighth-seeded Mids are in it to win.
Monmouth, which lost in a play-in game last season, apparently had the same idea. The Hawks made 11th-ranked Navy work for everything it got Friday, especially in the first half.
Monmouth scored first and was within one until the final 7.1 seconds of the first half, when Mids senior attacker Jasmine DePompeo dished out the first her five assists and sparked a five-goal run that carried Navy to a 12-6 victory at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for its first NCAA tournament win in six years as a Division I program.
"It's a historic day for us," DePompeo said, "and the team's so excited, but having said that, looking ahead to Sunday, we're really excited to play [Duke] and keep this ride going, because it's fun."
The Mids (19-1) will face the 10th-ranked Blue Devils — 10-9 winners over No. 15 Princeton in double overtime Friday night — in Sunday's noon second-round game in Annapolis.
To keep the ride going and add to coach Cindy Timchal's 30 NCAA tournament wins, the Mids likely will have to get off to a better start than they did against Monmouth (13-7), which swept its Northeast Conference opposition in earning the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, which for the first time has no play-in games.
The Hawks, riding an 11-game winning streak, won the first draw and took the lead on Mariel Pierce's goal in less than two minutes. The Mids scored the next three goals but never found their usual rhythm on attack until the end of the half, even though they outshot Monmouth 17-6 in the first half and 33-15 in the game.
"It's hard to play a team twice, especially since we played Monmouth so early in the season," DePompeo said of Navy's 16-4 win Feb. 22, "so we sort of knew what they were going to do. We knew they had a very strong goalie and an experienced defense. It was a little shaky in the beginning, but I think we caught our breath at halftime and realized what we had to do to get the job done."
After Kaleigh Gibbons fed Sam Savona to pull the Hawks within 5-4, Navy took two shots — one was saved by Hawks keeper Katie Donohoe (10 saves), the other went wide — before settling the attack and looking for the last shot of the half.
From behind the net, DePompeo found Loren Generi for the goal with 7.1 seconds left.
The Mids held onto that momentum in the second half. DePompeo dished out three more assists in less than four minutes — to Aimee Gennaro, Jill Coughlin and Generi — and Kathy Young scored an unassisted goal for a 10-4 Navy lead less than 10 minutes into the half.
Gennaro said the goal to end the half reminded the Mids of how they usually play.
"Just because we struggled for a couple minutes does not mean we don't know how to play," Gennaro said, "and that goal was a strong reminder than we know how to do this and even when we mess up, we're there to back each other up."
As the attack made its move, the defense held the Hawks scoreless for 31:12 until they managed a couple goals in the final 2:35.
"In the second half, we gave up too many draws to them, gave them a bit too much possession," Monmouth coach Denise Wescott said. "I thought our team did a good job defensively doing the things we needed to do. We just started to get tired because we kept giving them possession and when you have to play defense for 20 minutes, it's going to be hard on you."
DePompeo, the Patriot League's all-time leading scorer and its only three-time Offensive Player of the Year, increased her career assists total to 166 and moved into third place on the all-time NCAA list behind Northwestern's Hannah Nielsen (224) and Maryland's Jen Adams (178). Her 70 assists this season tie her for third all time in NCAA history.