An expectation of lightning caused the start time of East Stroudsburg’s 16-8 win over Gannon in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference quarterfinals to be moved up an hour at Gannon University Field Tuesday.
However, no one expected the lightning assault put forth by the Warriors on the higher-seeded Knights. No one, except head coach Steve Wagner.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Wagner said. “In the first half we came out lethargic, which is mind-boggling considering what they did to us last time.”
The Knights ended their season with a 12-5-1 overall record and an 8-4 mark in the PSAC.
The loss stung all the more since the Warriors handed Gannon a devastating 15-14 overtime loss at Gannon March 29.
East Stroudsburg (10-8, 7-5) finished the first half on a 5-1 scoring run, en route to an 8-4 halftime lead.
The Knights were able to battle back, and scored four of the first five goals to pull within one at 9-8. But Gannon saw its rally extinguished when a key turnover at the 12-minute mark led to the first of seven straight East Stroudsburg goals.
Senior midfielder Mary Eshenour finished with three goals to lead the Knights, but pointed to the turnover as a key turning point.
“We definitely came out slow,” Eshenour said. “We came back and tied it up, but the turnover really hurt and eventually did us in.”
East Stroudsburg will move on to face second-seeded Lock Haven in the conference semifinals at West Chester Saturday.
Despite the loss, the Knights finished the regular season on a six-game winning streak, which included four conference wins.
A key factor in the Knights’ late-season run was their double-overtime thriller victory over rival Mercyhurst in the season finale Thursday.
Junior Rachel DerCola’s only goal with 1:38 on the clock proved to be the game winner.
Gannon overcame a 5-3 halftime deficit by scoring five of the game’s next six goals to take an 8-6 lead.
Mercyhurst, however, was able to respond, as the Lakers’ Anna LeGrett scored a dramatic unassisted goal with one second on the clock to send the game into overtime.
After Mercyhurst drew first blood with a score in overtime, it was the Knights’ turn for an electrifying game-saver. Jess Fugate sent the game into a second overtime when she took a pass from Eshenour and found the back of the net with three seconds remaining.
Gannon won the draw in the second overtime session and controlled possession until DerCola’s game-winner.
The win set up a potential rematch with the Lakers, who defeated Bloomsberg 13-10 in their quarterfinal matchup.
However, Gannon couldn’t hold up its end, largely due to misjudgment on the part of the Knights, Wagner said.
“They beat us the first time because they outworked us. We underestimated them, and they did it again,” he said.
Eshenour, who finished her career with a Gannon-record 246 goals, said she saw all the makings of a loss with the team’s approach.
“He told us not to underestimate them, and I don’t think I really did, but for the most part, I think the team did and that’s why we lost, she said.”
The No. 10 Knights finished with 12 wins for the third straight season, and expect to return three of their top four scorers, as sophomores Jess Fugate and Sarah Grzybinski as well junior Caitlyn Fugate will come back for 2012. DerCola, the team’s leader in assists (34) will also return as well as freshman goaltender Margaret Maslyn.