Resilient Robert Morris Punches Ticket to MAC Championship


Samantha Dutch

The team celebrates the MAC Semifinal win with goaltender Jamie Keller. The win punches their ticket to the MAC Championship Game on Saturday against Central Michigan.

Nathan Breisinger

MOON TOWNSHIP – Year after year, the Robert Morris women’s lacrosse team puts together its best performances when it matters the most, and it was no different when the top-seeded Colonials dispatched the fourth-seeded Youngstown State Penguins in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament, 14-8.

Robert Morris was coming off the heels of a regular season finale that saw the Colonials climb back after trailing as much as six goals to win in overtime and clinch a share of the regular season MAC crown. On Thursday, the Colonials once again found a way to eliminate an early deficit in the semifinal matchup to advance to the championship game.

“Anytime you host a championship for the first time, you get a little jitters and a little excited. We just needed to settle in,” head coach Katrina Silva said.

The nerves that come with any playoff game were apparent, but once the resilient Colonials finally got rolling, they were just too much to handle for the Penguins.

“We’ve put in a lot of work this year and time and time again we’ve been doubted even as the number one seed,” sophomore midfielder Chelsea Coleman said. “We just have to get those first-quarter jitters out and start working as a team.”

Entering the contest, Youngstown State was looking to avoid a season sweep against the Colonials, along with hopes of avenging last year’s semifinal game, where the Colonials won 22-14.

Youngstown State found success early in the first half and generated a 6-3 lead thanks to two of Abby Yesko’s three goals. Three of the Penguins’ first-half goals also came from free-position looks. On the other side of the field, the Colonials struggled to generate any offense for nearly 29 minutes of play.

“We had good looks but didn’t take great shots,” Silva said. “We thought our sets were working fine, it was just a matter of execution.”

The results finally started to show at the end of the second quarter and they were quick and often as the Colonials scored three goals in the final minute of the half. Julia Koterwas, Colleen Tifft and Jenna Irwin all found ways to carve through the defense and beat the Penguins’ goalkeeper Mikaela Staranko.

“We finally realized if we just play our style, the game’s going to turn in our favor,” Silva said. “All of a sudden, we started pushing the fast break like we like, nailing down a couple of things and that was the catalyst to keep it going.”

Momentum carried for the Colonials into the second half as they were in search of their first lead of the day. After Coleman tied the game back up for the Colonials, Bailey Christianson scored less than a minute later to give the Colonials a one-goal lead. From there, Robert Morris never looked back.

An eight-goal run propelled the Colonials in the second half with Coleman recording three of her four goals in that span.

Coleman has found a knack for timely scoring as she leads the team in goals, but she also has stepped up in postseason action once again after posting three goals in last season’s semi-final victory.

“My teammates helped me a lot,” Coleman said. “They really set me up for success, so I tried to get it done for the team.”

While the offense showed out in the second half, Robert Morris’ defense was also stout, only allowing two goals in the half. Spearheaded by the MAC Defensive Player of the Year Kathleen Kelly and graduate goalkeeper Jamie Keller, the Colonials locked in to take down the Penguins.

Sophomore Chelsea Coleman had four goals in the win Thursday (Photo by Samantha Dutch)

“We frustrated them,” Silva said. “We work really hard on our defense and it’s nice to see it really paying off. At the beginning of the year, we weren’t getting low enough. We weren’t stepping in the right direction, so now we are finally getting our feet, our arms and our legs to mesh at the same time.”

To close out the third quarter, it was evident that the defense has become the Colonials’ primary contributor to success as Kelly, along with Mackenzie Bell, Abbie Elliott and Haley Mojsej squared up with the Penguins attackers and kept them to the outside with no room to breathe.

Coupled with eight saves on the afternoon from Keller, the Colonials prevented any hopes of a Youngstown State upset in the second half and limited the Penguins’ top-scoring duo of Erin Clark and Ali Korin to one goal apiece.

“Coming in, we had a game plan to lockdown two of their best players and Kelly and Bell did a good job of that,” Coleman said. “Jamie in net is like a brick wall, and we just worked together, so that’s what helped us.”

Now, the Colonials turn their attention towards a rematch of last year’s championship with Central Michigan after the Chippewas dominated Kent State, 18-7.

Last season Robert Morris fell to Central Michigan 20-10 in the title game, but the Colonials are looking to write a different ending this time around.

“This year, we have a lot more heart than last year,” Coleman said. “Everybody’s really locked in. I think we need to focus on one goal at a time rather than the end outcome.”

The opening draw between the Colonials and Chippewas will be at 3 p.m. on Saturday.