GREENVILLE, N.C. – A frantic second-half comeback lifted the East Carolina lacrosse team to a 12-11 win over visiting Cincinnati on Friday afternoon.
ECU improves to 4-11 on the season with a 2-7 AAC record while Cincinnati falls to 6-9 overall with an identical 2-7 league mark. With the victory, the Pirates keep their hopes of reaching he AAC Championship alive and need to beat Cincinnati on Sunday in the regular-season finale to clinch the league’s fourth and final playoff spot.
At the end of the first half, it looked like Cincinnati was well on the way to clinching a playoff spot. The Bearcats held ECU to just two goals in the opening 30 minutes, both of which consisted of Megan Tryniski setting up Camryn Pennypacker for goals. On the other end, the Bearcats had multiple 3-0 runs, with Sam Mlkvy and Kylie Nause each scoring a pair of goals. At the break, Cincinnati held a 6-2 lead.
The East Carolina comeback effort did not start immediately in the second half. It took nearly eight minutes for either team to score in the second stanza, as Payton Barr finally scored on a free-position shot. However, that ECU goal was answered by a Cincinnati tally 91 seconds later.
The next five minutes of play flipped the game on its head. Pennypacker completed her hat trick when she scored off a pass from Frances Kimel. Megan Pallozzi then scored back-to-back goals for the Pirates, the first on a free-position shot and the second on an individual effort that saw her run past multiple Bearcat defenders. Just 41 seconds after Pallozzi’s second goal, Kimel set up Nicole LeGar for a goal and suddenly ECU saw itself level at 7-7 with 16:07 to play.
Cincinnati briefly regained the lead on a Monica Borzillo goal, but Pennypacker answered when she scored off a pass from Pallozzi. Again, Cincinnati took the lead when Gianna Napoletano scored for the Bearcats.
A second flurry of Pirate goals was what finally tipped the game in East Carolina’s favor. LeGar bounced in a free-position goal with 11:09 to play and then added a second goal from the eight-meter arc with 8:27 remaining to give the Pirates their first lead of the game (10-9).
Pallozzi became the third Pirate with a goal as she slipped a rocket shot between the Cincinnati goalkeeper and the upper corner of the net. That made Pallozzi the first ever ECU player to reach 100 career goals and extended her school-record of 34 goals in a single season.
LeGar added an insurance goal at 5:28 when she scored off a pass from Kimel and that tally proved vital.
The Pirates seemed to be in control of the game, leading 12-9 as the clock ticked under a minute remaining, but a goal by Peyton Mottice gave Cincinnati a lifeline. Borzillo added another goal with just eight seconds on the clock to claw back within one.
Cincinnati won the ensuing draw and looked to have a chance to tie the game, but Jordyn Cox picked off a Bearcat pass to clinch the victory.
Along with the season-high 10 goals in the second-half, the Pirate defense also came alive in the second 20 minutes. Ashley Vernon finished with 11 saves on the day, including eight in the second stanza. ECU also forced nine turnovers in each half, led by four caused turnovers for Alexandra Giacolone, three for LeGar and two each for Cox and Liz Blumthal.
The Bearcats finished with a 26-24 edge in shots and a 16-9 lead in draw controls. The Pirates held the edge in ground balls 19-14 and turned the ball over 15 times compared to 18 for Cincinnati.
LeGar, Pennypacker and Pallozzi all had four points, Kimel added three assists and Tryniski had two helpers to lead the Pirates. Pennypacker also added four draw controls while Giacolone scooped up four ground balls.
The two teams will meet again on Sunday afternoon with the final playoff spot on the line. That contest will get started at 12 noon and will be broadcast on ESPN+. East Carolina will also honor its 14 seniors following the conclusion of the game.