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New Hampshire WCLA Champs

New Hampshire Club Wins First WCLA Division II Championship

May 12, 2023
Paul Ohanian
Rich Images Photography

VIRGINIA BEACH — Last year, New Hampshire Club reached a new milestone by advancing to the WCLA Division II national semifinals for the first time. This year, making its fourth tournament appearance, UNH pushed even further, winning in the semifinals and reaching the championship game. The Wildcats felt there was no reason to stop at that point.

Playing with energy and confidence, second-seeded New Hampshire edged top-seeded Utah Valley 9-8, scoring a dramatic game-winning goal in the closing seconds to claim its first national championship on Friday. Freshman attacker Julia Pitts was the hero for New Hampshire, tallying the winning goal with 10 seconds remaining on a dodge from the left wing. The championship-clinching score was Pitts’ only goal of the game.

Utah Valley won the final draw and had the ball on the stick of Maya Lightfoot, the national player of the year, but the Wolverines were unable to get a potential game-tying shot on goal before time expired. Utah Valley finished with a 17-2 record.

“We brought the energy today and carried it through the whole game,” said New Hampshire freshman Mackenzie Cretsinger, who scored twice and was named the tournament’s most outstanding midfielder.

Despite making their first championship appearance, the Wildcats displayed no nerves, and in fact, admitted to being less worried about the final game than they were for Thursday’s semifinal against their Northeast Women’s Lacrosse League rival, Vermont Club. That game was the fourth meeting of the year between the two teams, while UNH and Utah Valley had only met once previously, in last year’s third-place game.

“I think we all felt better about today’s game than we did about yesterday’s,” said junior Riley Chou, who scored three goals in Friday’s final and was named the tournament’s most outstanding attacker.

The showdown between the two top seeds lived up to its billing, with neither team leading by more than two goals throughout the closely played contest. UNH had a lead in each quarter but saw Utah Valley draw even each time.

New Hampshire carried a 7-5 lead into the fourth quarter, but three straight scores by Emme Laro, Rebekah Sheperd and Lindsey Barber pushed Utah Valley ahead for the first time with 8:46 remaining.

Cretsinger was one of the heroes in UNH’s semifinal victory, scoring a team-high four goals. She proved clutch again on Friday, scoring her second of the game on a free position shot at 4:41 to even the score at 8. All that remained was the late heroics by Pitts.

“I really had no nerves down the stretch,” Cretsinger said. “I think we all played our best lacrosse of the season in this tournament.”

Riley and sophomore midfielder Lucy Witherbee scored three goals each to lead the Wildcats, who finished with a 14-2-1 record.

“We knew we were the underdog in this game, but we all wanted to win it so badly,” Riley said. “I’m so in love with this team.”

Other Games
3rd Place: Vermont 14, Denver 12
5th Place: Boise State 19, Santa Barbara City 11
7th Place: CSU San Marcos 16, Air Force 11
9th Place: Providence 20, Portland State 1
11th Place: Portland 7, Pacific Lutheran 5