LANCASTER, Pa - In a game that featured nine ties and no lead larger than two goals for nearly the entire contest, No. 1 Franklin & Marshall squeaked past No. 5 Gettysburg 17-14 to clinch the Centennial Conference (CC) crown on Saturday afternoon. With the win, the Diplomats secure the CC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, with selections set to be announced May 3.
The conference title was the eighth in program history in the Centennial Conference, and first since 2017. It's the team's third title under current head coach Mike Faith, who also led the team to the crown in 2015 and 2017. The Diplomats previously won five-straight CC titles from 2007-11.
The game acted as a quasi-conference final of sorts, with both squads coming in undefeated and regular season records determining the conference champion. These types of games are commonplace for F&M and Gettysburg. The last 19 Centennial Conference titles have gone to either the Bullets or Diplomats, with Gettysburg winning 11. The rivals had also met in the last seven championships and 16 of the last 17. Gettysburg had held the edge with a 9-7 record in those games, including the last two.
The game was a back and forth affair, with the teams flirting with ties and slim leads until the final stretch. F&M took an early 1-0 lead on a Madison Bray strike, but promptly gave way to two Gettysburg goals to fall behind 2-1.
The teams zigzagged during much of the first half, with both seeming destined for a deadlock at the half. The Diplomats got goals from Marissa McGarrey, Kate McLam, Ally Marino, and Sarah Delaney across a 13-minute stretch, but gave up nearly just as many to be knotted up a 6-6 just before the half.
Gettysburg came out firing on all cylinders to open the second half, striking scoring three of the next four goals in a 1:41 stretch to knot things at 9-9. Ally Marino then went on a tear of her own for the Diplomats, scoring two straight for an 11-9 edge, then adding another after a two-goal run for the Bullets to sneak back ahead 12-11.
The F&M defense clamped down over the final stretch, shutting out the Bullets over the last 8:23. Emily Kitchin came up large, making three stops in the stint.
The Diplomats got a break, as back-to-back yellow cards by a scrambling Bullets defense gave F&M a late two-man advantage. Tabitha Rodriguez cashed in with 35 seconds to spare, to push the lead to 16-14. Marissa McGarrey added an exclamation point with just five seconds remaining for the 17-14 final.
The 31 combined goals between the two schools was the most in 18 years and 34 games, a 21-10 Gettysburg victory back on April 2, 2003.
Both Tabitha Rodriguez and McGarry were busy on draw controls, with the players picking up seven and six, respectively.
Emily Kitchin made nine saves during the contest for her seventh victory of the season.