|Gracie McClatchy||Brianna Witt||Allie Benadon|
SCRANTON, Pa. – Senior Gracie McClatchy (Havertown, Pa./Archbishop Carroll) opened the scoring just 1:11 into the game and The No. 1 seed University of Scranton field hockey team (12-7) advanced to the Landmark Conference Championship for the second straight year with a 3-0 victory over the No. 4 seed Elizabethtown Blue Jays (6-13) on Wednesday night at Weiss Field in Scranton.
The Royals will play No. 3 seed Susquehanna in Saturday's championship game at Weiss Field at 1 p.m. Susquehanna recorded a 2-1 victory over No. 2 seed Catholic in Wednesday's other semifinal.
This marks the second consecutive Landmark Conference Championship game appearance for Scranton after falling just short against the River Hawks a year ago and the third for the program since joining the conference.
In the early stages of the first quarter, senior Nicolette Keale (Wall Township, N.J./Wall) fed a pass across the goal mouth to McClatchy who was able to find the back of the net to give the Royals a 1-0 lead with 13:49 left in the opening stanza. McClatchy nearly struck again just over two minutes later, but her shot off a penalty corner bounced off the post. Scranton had a couple of chances in the second quarter and extended the lead with 3:50 to play in the quarter as senior Brianna Witt (Sloatsburg, N.Y./Suffern) buried a rebound off an initial shot from McClatchy. The goal was McClatchy's 11th of the season and Witt's fifth. A strong defensive effort from the Royals led by senior Lauren Earnshaw (Audubon, Pa./Methacton), junior Christina Motz (Glenside, Pa./Gwynedd-Mercy Academy) and senior Caroline Mullen (Chester Springs, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) helped limit Elizabethtown to one shot in the first half.
The Royals continued to mount offensive pressure in the third quarter and sophomore Allie Benadon (Hillsborough, N.J./Hillsborough) made it a 3-0 game with a goal off an assist from McClatchy following a penalty corner with 0:39 left in the quarter. The goal was Benadon's sixth of the season. Trailing 3-0, the Blue Jays had a chance to get on the board with a penalty stroke in the 50th minute, but senior goalie Claire McAllister (Plymouth Meeting, Pa./Plymouth-Whitemarsh) made a diving save on Olivia Beachley's attempt to preserve the shutout. Seconds later, McAllister turned away consecutive chances from Lauren Scheib and Madison Kubik.
Scranton held an 11-6 edge in shots on the night led by six shots from McClatchy. McAllister made five saves en route to her fourth shutout of the season, while Madeline Kachel had five saves for Elizabethtown.
The Royals will be aiming for the program's first Landmark Conference Championship and an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 1997.