FAIRFIELD, Conn. – The Sacred Heart women's lacrosse team opened Northeast Conference play Friday afternoon with an 8-7 win over the Central Connecticut Blue Devils.
Junior attack Averi Farhat led the Pioneers with three goals. Cassie Cesario had two goals and three groundballs. Alyssa Pearce also had two points on a goal and an assist. Caitlin Delaney led the SHU defense with five caused turnovers, adding four draw controls and three groundballs. Brenna Betsch caused two turnovers and had four groundballs. Paige Hammick made 10 saves in goal.
CCSU (1-9, 0-1 NEC) opened the scoring with a Megan Szawlowski goal at the 27:09 mark of the first half. SHU responded with goals from Cesario and Pearce 1:06 apart to take a 2-1 lead with 22:02 left in the first. The Blue Devils came back with free position goals from Szawlowski and Marissa Soto to take their only lead of the game, 3-2, at the 6:52 mark. The Pioneers closed the half scoring three straight goals. Hanna Wise tied the game with a free position goal with 5:31 remaining. Cesario put SHU up 4-3 with her goal at the 4:33 mark. Farhat then scored her first goal of the game with 1:12 left to give the Pioneers a 5-3 halftime advantage.
Sacred Heart (3-7, 1-0 NEC) opened the second half with two more Farhat goals, extending the lead to 7-3 with 17:21 to play. The Pioneers led 8-4 when the Blue Devils mounted a rally to get back in the game. Jessica Giangarra scored a free position goal with 12:07 left to put the score at 8-5. Cameron Ruberti then scored with 5:43 remaining, with an assist from Giangarra, to close the gap to two 8-6. Soto then tallied her third goal of the game at the 2:29 mark to get CCSU within one, 8-7. CCSU had two chances in the final 0:30 to force overtime, but Szawlowski hit the goalpost with one shot and Hammick stopped another to preserve the SHU win.
SHU outshot CCSU 23-20 in the game and held a 21-15 advantage in groundballs. CCSU had 10 draw controls to the Pioneers' seven. The Pioneers forced 24 Blue Devils turnovers and committed 22. Soto led CCSU with three goals, as Szawlowski added three points on two goals and an assist. Jackie Branthover made nine saves in goal.
The Pioneers close out their opening weekend of NEC play at Campus Field Sunday against Bryant in a rematch of last season's NEC Tournament semifinals. Gametime is 1 p.m.