LOUDONVILLE — The Siena women’s lacrosse program had to wait two years for its chance to get back to the MAAC championship game.
That wasn’t easy — but the Saints sure made clinching their long-coveted spot in Sunday’s final look that way.
“It’s [been] hard not to look forward to the championship game, but we know we have to take it one game at a time because if we don’t win the game that’s in front of us, we’re not going to get there,” Siena senior Kerry Gerety said after the Saints’ 20-11 win Thursday in the MAAC semifinals against Monmouth. “So we made it a point of emphasis to keep it one game at a time.”
And the next game for the Saints now is the championship rematch they’ve wanted with Fairfield since they left the Stags’ field in 2019 after a 10-9 overtime defeat. The 2020 MAAC season and postseason was wiped out because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the Saints will head into Sunday’s noon matchup at Fairfield with momentum to spare after their second postseason game in a row with 20 or more goals.
“I just think we’re peaking at the right time,” Siena senior Nicole McNeely said after the team’s eighth consecutive win.
Neither Siena (No. 2 seed, 11-2 overall) nor Monmouth (No. 3, 8-5) led by more than two goals in the first half Thursday at Hickey Field, but the game started to move in the Saints’ favor late in the opening period. Siena scored four of the first half’s final five goals, including two scores in a stretch of 37 seconds, to head into halftime up 8-7.
Then, the Saints ran away from a Monmouth team they had defeated 13-12 late in the regular season.
After scoring the final three goals of the first half, Siena registered two more to start the second half before Monmouth scored — and, then, Siena followed that with five more goals. Monmouth never had consecutive scores in the second half, which saw Siena outscore the visitors 12-4.
“Really proud of the team effort today,” Siena head coach Abby Rehfuss said. “Thought we just really came together and we were clicking in the second half.”
Gerety and McNeely were major reasons for that, as the duo earned possession after possession for Siena, which won 14 of 17 draw controls after halftime. In the first half, Monmouth won 9 of 16 draw controls.
Gerety’s total for the game of 11 draw controls broke the MAAC tournament single-game record that McNeely had set with 10 in Siena’s 21-11 quarterfinal win against Canisius. McNeely had six draw controls in Thursday’s game.
Also in the contest, Gerety set the Siena career record for assists with her 65th, surpassing the mark of Cailtin Mikel.
“Kerry is just one of the best all-around players that I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching,” Rehfuss said of the former Guilderland High School star who set Siena’s single-season scoring record as a sophomore.
Besides her 11 draw controls, Gerety had a goal and three assists in the win. McNeely had five goals, while redshirt junior Kaitlyn Dowsett contributed three goals and four assists, and junior Mary Soures had four goals and two assists.
“During this game, we were all finding each other,” Gerety said. “We had a lot of assists, and that’s always nice for a team effort.”
Fifth-year senior Nicole Ceraso, the MAAC Offensive Player of the Year, led Monmouth with four goals and three assists.
In Thursday’s other MAAC semifinal, Fairfield (No. 1, 12-1) overcame a slow start against Niagara (No. 4, 8-5) to advance. Fairfield trailed 5-1 before scoring the final four goals of the first half. The teams were tied at 6 and 7 early in the second half before Fairfield took control with a 4-0 run on its way to a 15-10 win.
Siena won at Fairfield during the regular season. In that 15-11 win, Soures scored seven goals for the Saints.
Halftime score: Siena led 8-7. Monmouth scoring: Ceraso 4-3, Turturro 4-0, Bleck 1-1, Novak 1-0, Steuerwald 1-0, Mangum 0-1. Siena scoring: Dowsett 3-4, Soures 4-2, McNeely 5-0, Gerety 1-3, Brennan 2-2, Lane 2-0, Bonomo 2-0, Kmack 1-0.
Goalies: Monmouth, Delliturri, 8 saves. Siena, Mervine, 8 saves; Bower, 0 saves.