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Northeastern WCLA.

Northeastern, UCLA Upset Top Seeds, Advance to WCLA Division I Final

May 9, 2024
Paul Ohanian
Nick Flynn

WICHITA, Kan. — The Southeastern Women’s Lacrosse League did not enjoy a good Thursday in Wichita.

League members Florida Club and Georgia, the top two Division I seeds in the WCLA National Championship, both fell victim to upsets engineered by No. 5 Northeastern and No. 3 UCLA, respectively.

The Huskies and Bruins will both try to secure their first national championship when they meet in the title game Friday at 8:30 am (CT).

Although the two semifinal games were completely different in style, both offered plenty of drama down to the final horn.

In the opener, Northeastern (12-3) scored three straight goals in a four-minute span of the third quarter to take the lead, then survived a late Florida charge to win, 10-9.

After Molly Burnes’ second goal of the game with 3:16 left pushed Northeastern’s lead to 10-8, the Huskies controlled the ensuing draw and were able to run almost three minutes off the clock. A late turnover led to a quick transition goal by Florida’s Mia Lindsey with 19 seconds left, pulling the Gators to within one and setting up some high drama on the draw.

The Huskies initially controlled the draw, with Burnes’ scooping the ground ball and getting fouled. The restart at midfield, however, resulted in another turnover, with the Gators getting the ball quickly into the offensive end and getting a final shot that sailed wide at the horn. Northeastern’s celebration was underway.

“We know we are prepared so we just play our game,” said Burnes, who finished with two goals and an assist. “We try to send two or three players to ground balls, and look for feeds on offense. On defense, we just try to play loud and strong.”

Burnes said there was no panic when Florida built an early 3-1 lead, or made the late charge in the fourth quarter.

“Lacrosse is a game of runs and we know we can’t get down,” she said.

Midfielder Ellie Morrall paced the Huskie offense with a game-high four goals while attacker Jessie Kilburn added three.

“We try to take advantage of 1-v-1 opportunities, but we’re always looking for the cutter when the slide comes to us,” Morrall said. “We all trust our teammates.”

Junior Brooke Papenfuss led Florida (16-2) with four goals and three assists, while goalie Jordyn Salbe recorded 10 saves in a losing effort. 

The second semifinal was a battle of defenses, with UCLA nipping Georgia, 4-3, in the lowest scoring game of this year’s tournament and the lowest scoring game for both teams this season.

Tied at 2-2 at halftime, UCLA scored twice in the third quarter, including the second of the game by Rowdy Farmer, to seize the lead. Georgia pulled back to within one with 14:15 left on a goal by national player of the year Katelyn Sparks, but that’s where the scoring would end.

“That was the closest game we have played all year,” said UCLA’s junior goalie Kate Ruiz, who finished with six saves. “It’s a lot more stressful because everything matters. I was almost throwing up on the sidelines during time outs.”

The intensity of a tight, defensive effort with little margin for error by either team made for a dramatic 60-minute battle.

“I’m so proud of our defense,” said UCLA coach Sarah Duncan. “We shut down their drivers with all our crashes and slides. It was beautiful. When we play together like that we can beat anyone.”

The Bruins return to the national championship for the first time since 2011, when they finished as runner-up for the second time. Northeastern, playing in the tournament for the sixth time, earned its first championship game appearance.

USA Lacrosse is providing free video streaming of all D-I and D-II games throughout the tournament. Links for video streaming can be accessed at

Gatorade, Enovis, Lacrosse Specialties, and Powell Lacrosse serve as official event sponsors for the 2024 USA Lacrosse WCLA Championships, with local support provided by Wichita Wind Surge, Chick-Fil-A Wichita East, Visit Wichita, Chicken N Pickle of Wichita, Angelo's Italian Catering, Tanganyika Wildlife Park, and Butler Creative TV.