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Vermont celebrates after winning the WCLA championship

Vermont Club claims Its First WCLA D-2 National Championship

May 10, 2024
Paul Ohanian
Nick Flynn

WICHITA, Kan. — Two years ago, Vermont’s club team reached a new milestone, advancing to the WCLA D-II national championship game for the first time. The Catamounts played a strong final game, but fell just shy of the title, losing by two goals.

Senior defender Hayley Zielinski remembers that empty feeling, one of 14 upperclassmen on this year’s roster that also played on the 2022 team. Perhaps the memory of that loss was just the fuel that Zielinski and her teammates needed for their return to the final in 2024.

Playing an inspired second half in Friday’s USA Lacrosse WCLA D-II championship game, Vermont scored 11 second half goals to post a 14-8 victory over arch-rival Providence and claim its first national title. Zielinski likes this feeling much better.

“I think we just had the fire inside today,” she said, minutes after being named the tournament’s most outstanding defender. “We just kept that fire the whole game and we were a confident bunch.”

Friday’s championship turned out to be a contrast of two halves. With solid goalie play from Vermont’s Erin Osinski (9 saves) and Providence’s Rachel Iannazzo (7 saves), neither team was able to score in the opening quarter. It was the only game in this year’s tournament to feature a scoreless opening 15 minutes.

Given that this was the fourth meeting of the year between these two Northeast Women’s Lacrosse League (NWLL) rivals, it may have simply been that they know each other too well.

“We know what they do and they know what we do,” said Providence’s midfielder Olivia Robitaille, who finished with two goals.

The offenses slowly started warming up in second quarter, with each team scoring three times to forge a 3-3 deadlock at intermission. No one would have guessed, at that point, that the teams would combine for 16 second half goals.

Three goals by Vermont’s Annika More in the third quarter helped spark a 6-2 Catamounts’ run that allowed them to take control. More eventually finished with a game-high six goals and was named the tournament’s most outstanding attacker.

All-America freshman Katie Velie, who tallied one goal and one assist for Vermont while also helping to give her team a sizeable edge in draw controls, said that the offense did a good job of taking what was available.

“Providence face guarded me for much of the game, but that opened up opportunities for the rest of the team,” she said. “It always fires us up to play against Providence.”

In addition to More’s big scoring day, senior midfielder Ella Malik added two goals and Catherine Pope had two assists. Vermont outscored Providence 5-1 over the final eight minutes to put the game away and claim its first national championship. The Catamounts finish the year 10-3 overall.

Sophomore Kara O’Shea led Providence with three goals, while All-American Demmerle Hamel added two goals and two assists. The Friars finish with a 10-4 record.

“Playing in the NWLL against Providence and New Hampshire (national champion in 2023) prepares us well for the postseason,” Zielinski said. “There’s a lot of aggressive and physical play and a lot of talented players.”

Fortunately, Vermont also has its share, and now, a WCLA trophy. And Zielinski has a new championship memory to replace the one from 2022.

“This experience is awesome,” she said. “So much better.”

CSU San Marcos, which was the tournament’s number one seed, defeated No. 2 Boise State, 13-11, in Friday’s third place game.

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.