BROOKLINE, Mass. - In only their second season, the Nighthawks women's lacrosse program qualified for the New England Collegiate Conference playoffs for the first time in program history. Voted seventh in the preseason, the Nighthawks used a 3-4 NECC season to finish tied-fourth in the conference standings with Bay Path and Mitchell.
After a series of tiebreakers, the Bay Path Wildcats came out the fourth-seed, while the Nighthawks took the fifth-seed, setting up Tuesday's battle at Wildcats Field in Longmeadow, Mass.
The Nighthawks have been powered by the freshmen trio of Venezia Delgadillo (Sharon, Mass.), Sophia Kiasi (Yorba Linda, Calif.), and Hannah Gorham (Lyman, Maine). All have played critical roles in the attack and midfield for Newbury this season, combining for 84 goals in 13 games this season.
Delgadillo led the Nighthawks with a program-record 38 goals, ranking her sixth in the NECC in goals. Kiasi scored 28 goals this season, with 27 of those goals coming in the last nine games. Gorham scored 18 for the Nighthawks this season but was a crucial player in faceoffs this year, gathering 50 draw controls, tied with Delgadillo for most on the team and tied-fifth most in the conference.
On the back line, sophomore Keely Molloy (Staten Island, N.Y.) showed major growth in goal for the Nighthawks. Molloy, one of five returns from the 2017 team, allowed just 13.92 goals against this season, fourth-best in the NECC and an improvement of nearly five goals from her first season. Additionally, Molloy ranks fourth in the conference in saves and save percentage with 150 saves and a percentage of 45.3.
The Wildcats are led by the pair of senior Kaylee Herring (Worcester, Vt.) and freshman Samantha Rubacha (Feeding Hills, Mass.). Herring led the Wildcats and was fourth in goals with 42 this season. Herring also ranked fourth in the NECC in assists with 14. Rubacha scored 26 goals in her first season and added 11 assists for the Wildcats.
Sophomore Kristina Tran (Agawam, Mass.) defends the goal for Bay Path. Quite effective this season, Tran led the NECC in save percentage at 52.5 percent, outranking her closest competitor by nearly seven percentage points. Tran ranks sixth in the conference in goals against average, allowing 14.67 goals on average.
In the only meeting between the Nighthawks and Wildcats this season, the Wildcats used a 5-0 scoring stretch in the last 11 minutes of the game to win 16-11. Herring finished with a game-high seven goals, 12 draw controls, and 10 ground balls. Rubacha added a then-career-high four goals in the win. Delgadillo had four goals for the Nighthawks, Kiasi and Gorham both had hat tricks.
The Nighthawks jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the opening 15 minutes, but the Wildcats closed the gap, tying the game at 7-7 before the half. The Wildcats outscored the Nighthawks 9-4 in the second half en route to the five-goal win.
The Nighthawks travel to Bay Path on Tuesday for the start of the NECC Playoffs with face-off scheduled for 5:30 p.m.