|Gracie McClatchy||Brianna Witt||Allie Benadon|
SCRANTON, Pa. – The No. 1 seed University of Scranton field hockey team (13-7) scored three first half goals and captured the program's first Landmark Conference title with a 4-1 win over the No. 3 seed Susquehanna River Hawks (10-11) on Saturday afternoon at Weiss Field in Scranton.
The Royals advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997 and second time ever in program history.
Senior Gracie McClatchy (Havertown, Pa./Archbishop Carroll) was named Tournament MVP after scoring a pair of goals on the afternoon and recorded three goals and an assist over the team's two playoff games. McClatchy tallied a goal and an assist in the 3-0 win over Elizabethtown in Wednesday's semifinals.
Scranton was able to avenge last year's championship game loss to Susquehanna with the 4-1 win.
McClatchy opened the scoring with 2:35 to play in the first quarter as she collected a loose ball in front after a feed from senior Brianna Witt (Sloatsburg, N.Y./Suffern) and found the back of the net to put the Royals on the board. Susquehanna had a pair of penalty corners in the early stages of the second quarter, but were unable to find the back of the net and a defensive save from junior Christina Motz (Glenside, Pa./Gwynedd-Mercy Academy) after a shot from Anna Dietl kept it a 1-0 game for the time being. Scranton was able to extend the lead a few minutes later as Allie Benadon's (Hillsborough, N.J./Hillsborough) shot was turned away on a defensive save, but Witt fired home the rebound to make it a 2-0 game. The Royals put forth a phenomenal defensive effort in the second quarter led by Motz and seniors Lauren Earnshaw (Audubon, Pa./Methacton) and Caroline Mullen (Chester Springs, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) as the River Hawks had nine penalty corners in the quarter. Senior goalie Claire McAllister (Plymouth Meeting, Pa./Plymouth-Whitemarsh) made a key save on a shot from Susquehanna's Heather Casey during the stretch as well. Benadon extended the lead to 3-0 in the final minute of the first half as she buried a shot off a penalty corner that was taken by sophomore Shaelin de Wit (New Tripoli, Pa./Northwestern Lehigh).
The goals were Benadon's seventh of the season and Witt's sixth, while McClatchy leads the team with 13 goals.
The two teams battled through a scoreless third quarter with each team registering a couple of quality chances. Emily DiGaetano made three saves in the period for the River Hawks, while McAllister tallied a pair of saves in the final minute after a Susquehanna penalty corner. Hunter Pitman got Susquehanna on the board with 10:24 to play in the fourth, but McClatchy answered for the Royals just 51 seconds later with a feed across the goal mouth from Benadon to stretch the lead to 4-1.
Susquehanna held a slight 11-9 edge in shots and McClatchy paced Scranton with four shots on the afternoon. McAllister made five saves in net for the Royals, while DiGaetano and Veronica Green combined to make three saves for the River Hawks.
The 2019 NCAA Division III Field Hockey bracket will be unveiled in a press release on NCAA.com on Sunday night at 11:30 p.m. Check back to athletics.scranton.edu tomorrow night to see who the Royals' first round opponent will be.