We have a NAIA women’s lacrosse national champion in 2021: congratulations on an undefeated season and national championship, Keiser!
Let’s break down how it happened, starting with the semifinals.
Keiser Stamps Undefeated Season with National Championship
The semifinals of the inaugural NAIA Women’s Lacrosse National Championship concluded with both top seeds advancing to the national championship game.
(1) Keiser 13 – (5) Lawrence Tech 8
An early morning matchup went in favor of No. 1 Keiser University over No. 5. Lawrence Tech University. Right off the draw, Keiser jumped to a quick 2-0 lead over the Blue Devils. Lawrence Tech quickly responded with two of its own to even the playing field, but Keiser built a lead going into the second half, 8-5.
Lawrence Tech tried to climb its way back and got as close as two goals. But ultimately, the Blue Devils came up short against a well-rounded Keiser team. Cat Raymond and Madison Andrews led the Keiser offense with four goals a piece, and Andrews had two assists to boot. Andrews has been on fire this postseason and was a player to watch in the title game.
Lawrence Tech did not give up, as Abby Barnewold and Kady Waits led its offensive charge with two goals each. Lawrence Tech gave Keiser chaos in the midfield and forced Keiser to go 17-27 in clears, but it wasn’t enough to come out on top. This win took Keiser to 15-0 on the season, but before it could say it completed a perfect season, the team needed one more win.
(2) Cumberlands 11 – (6) Life 10
The second NAIA women’s lacrosse national semifinal game was a thriller between conference foes No. 2. University of the Cumberlands and No. 6 Life University. Life took control of the game right off the bat, leading 5-1 in the beginning of the first half thanks to Tina Ricci, who netted three of the five Life goals. But Cumberlands managed to close the gap by the break, narrowing Life’s lead to just 7-6 at halftime.
The second half is where Cumberlands found its groove, and Emily Heim started it off with two back-to-back goals to give Cumberlands its first lead of the day and one it wouldn’t relinquish. Despite Life climbing back and adding a late goal to come within one, there was just not enough time on the clock. Olivia McCarrell had herself a day between the pipes, making 17 saves for the Patriots and keeping them in this game. It was a very aggressive contest with a total of eight yellow cards between the teams and a late red card against Cumberlands. Both teams showed up and wanted it, but the Patriots were ultimately too much to overcome for the Running Eagles in the second half.
NAIA Women’s Lacrosse National Championship Recap
(1) Keiser 13 – (2) Cumberlands 11
Keiser completed the perfect season! In the rematch of the Mid-South Conference Tournament championship, No. 1 Kesier came out on top over No. 2 Cumberlands to earn its first-ever NAIA Women’s Lacrosse Championship title.
How it happened
This championship game did not disappoint. It was a back-and-forth game to start, with Cumberlands striking first with a goal from Florence Andrieu. The Seahawks and Patriots would trade off the next seven goals to make the score an even 4-4. During this span, Cumberlands’ Bella Richiazzi added two and Emily Heim added one. On the flip side, Keiser’s Madison Andrews added two tallies of her own while Melanie Brown and Talia Myers chipped in a goal apiece. Keiser ended the first half in the lead, 9-5, thanks to a 4-0 run propelled by four different goal scorers.
Cumberlands was down by four goals to start the second half, but it came out on fire and netted four unanswered goals to even the score at 9-9. The Cumberlands defense held Keiser’s offense scoreless for the first 20 minutes of the half, but Andrews broke the silence with 10 minutes to play to give Keiser the go-ahead goal, 10-9. Cumberlands answered right back, again evening the score, 10-10.
This is where Keiser put its foot on the gas. It went on a three-goal run in a five-minute span to build a comfortable three-goal lead with just under five minutes to go. Cumberlands sneaked a late goal by Keiser goalie Jessica Covell, but unfortunately for the Patriots, the clock was not on their side. Keiser earned the last possession and ran out the clock to become the 2021 NAIA women’s lacrosse national champions and put a stamp on its undefeated season.
Interestingly, neither of these teams that played in the national championship have any senior players. Both squads can continue to build in the offseason. Keiser and Cumberlands should both be watched next season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them back in the final rounds in 2022.
Everyone fought hard in this final game of the inaugural NAIA Women’s Lacrosse Championship Tournament and should be proud of their performances. Hats off to all the athletic administrators, sports information staff, venue staff, and championship committees for making this tournament possible. See you all next spring in Southfield, Michigan, for the 2022 NAIA Women’s Lacrosse National Championship Tournament!
You can find more information about the earlier round of this tournament here.