UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Utica College women's lacrosse team opened up Empire 8 Conference play on Saturday with a convincing 13-5 victory over Hartwick College. The Pioneers advanced their record to 6-1 overall while extending their best start in program-history. UC's Morgan DuPont (Wynantskill, NY/Averill Park), a sophomore, tallied a game-high four goals and she also chipped in with one assist. Both team's dawned crimson and gold in honor of the recent Seton Hill University tragedy where the University's Head Women's Lacrosse Coach Kristina Quigley, who was pregnant, and the team bus driver Anthony Guaetta, passed away in a bus accident.
UC has now won two straight after dropping its first contest of the year, a 13-12 overtime loss, at Clarkson. The Hawks' record moved to 3-5 overall and 0-1 in the Empire 8.
DuPont's four goals and one assist helped make her the top scorer for the Pioneers through seven games this season as she now has 17 goals and nine assists for 26 points. Sophomore three sport star Louise Steele-Norton (Avondale, PA/Millbrook School) continues to gain her lacrosse legs as she tallied two goals, and classmate Megan Kane (Staten Island, NY/Tottenville) also chipped in with two goals as well, giving her a team-high 23 tallies. Kane's 23 goals is also tied for fourth in the Empire 8.
Hartwick scored two of the game's first three goals in the first 10:33 of the contest to put a scare into the Pioneers. But UC answered with four straight goals in the final 18:40 of the first half to take a 5-2 lead into the intermission. DuPont netted three of those four goals to help UC push to a three goal lead at half.
The Pioneers extended their lead to 7-3 after two goals in the first 2:44 of the second half. Hartwick's Kia Ference and Emily Jweid helped the Hawks answer early in the second half, netting consecutive goals to cut UC's advantage back to just three goals, 7-4.
However, the Pioneers were able to light up the scoreboard three times in a span of six minutes midway through the second half to essentially seal the victory. Courtney Wheeler (Ava, NY/Rome Free Academy), Colleen Dowling (Fairport, NY/Fairport) and Megan Kane (Staten Island, NY/Tottenville) each posted a goal for UC to extend the Pioneer lead to 10-4.
Hartwick's Meg Luce scored what proved to be the Hawks final goal of the game at the 10:50 ledger, but UC was able to muster three more scores in the final 7:54 to seal the victory. Venessa Maines, Samantha Gebler (Vestal, NY/Vestal) and Megan Kane (Staten Island, NY/Tottenville) each tallied late goals to propel the Pioneers to their six consecutive win over the Hawks.
Jennifer Rogaski (Schenectady, NY/Colonie Central) also scored for UC, while Dowling, Gebler and Wheeler all added assists. UC goalie Stephanie Belanger (Lewiston, ME/Lewiston) made seven saves in net for the Pioneers, including six in the second half. She also picked up five ground balls. Wheeler proved once again that she possesses a great overall game as she tallied five ground balls and three caused turnovers. Patricia Kane (Staten Island, NY/Tottenville) came away with a team-best three draw controls.
Hartwick goalie Steph Luce stopped seven shots, caused two turnovers and scooped up a game-high seven ground balls. Emily Jweid, the team's leading scorer from nearby Marcy, NY, netted a team-high two goals for the visitors. Kate Purcell, who is also a member of the Hartwick women's basketball team, tallied a team-best four caused turnovers.
The Pioneers will host SUNYIT on Tuesday night (7 p.m.) at Gaetano in a non-conference competition, before returning to Empire 8 Conference play on the road at St. John Fisher College and Nazareth College on Saturday and Sunday. Both conference games will begin at 1 p.m.