GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Calvin women's program became the first team to win three-straight MIAA Tournament titles in women's lacrosse with a victory over Saint Mary's on Saturday night. The Knights rang the Belles to a 16-8 victory. The win sends Calvin to the NCAA Tournament for the third-straight year and to 12-5 on the year. Saint Mary's ends the year at 12-6.
"This team is family," said Calvin head coach Blake Boehm. "They are my family, they are family to each other, they fill in very well for each other and they pick each other up. To have a culture like this is great and I hope it continues."
The Belles struck first on Saturday with a free position goal seven minutes into the game.
Junior Kelly Pepper (Wyckoff, N.J./Indian Hills) fooled Emily Kraker on the left side to tie the game.
Saint Mary's pushed the lead to 3-1 with a pair of goals, 25 seconds apart.
Calvin broke the game open with an 8-0 run over a 10-minute stretch.
Sophomore Emma Verrett (Beaver, Pa./Beaver County Christian) scored on two free position shots to tie the game.
Junior Grace Einfeld (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian) set up shop in front of the net and junior Emma Tilma (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian) fed Einfeld the ball for the fourth Calvin goal.
51 second later, Emma Verrett scored from the right side to pile on the Belles.
Grace Einfeld kept the foot of the pedal scoring her second goal of the night 44 seconds later.
With 9:19 remaining in the first half, Emma Hall rolled the ball by the Saint Mary's goalie on a free position shot.
Emma Verrett pickpocketed the SMC goalie and juked past the goalie to make it a 9-3 game.
Calvin won five draw controls to maintain possession in the run. Senior Amanda Davio (Okemos, Mich./Okemos) had four.
Saint Mary's closed the half on a 3-0 run.
Junior Ellis Chalfant (St. Louis, Mo./Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School) came up with multiple big saves on Saturday. Chalfant opened the second half with a save against an unguarded Erin Doyle.
"Ellis is a big game kid," said Boehm. "She stood up tall in goal and knocked down everything we needed her to knock down and we transitioned well and our offense was clicking."
After a pair of Saint Mary's goals, junior Genevieve Schneemann (Farmington, Mich./Farmington) responded with two goals of her own.
Saint Mary's scored a goal with 6:40 remaining to cut the lead to 12-8. The Knights responded with solid play the rest of the way to put the final nail in the coffin with four goals.
Emma Verrett snuck the ball by toes of the goalie on a free position shot 15 seconds after the Saint Mary's goal to take the wind out of the sails.
Emma Hall scored her third goal with a ball that went through the keeper's legs.
"You just said it, the MIAA's level of competition raised a lot over this year," said Blake Boehm. "For us, it was a grinding year, our regular season matches were closer and we had to fight and figure things out. Today was no different, we fought and hats off to Saint Mary's that was an excellent Saint Mary's team. This is what we play for every year, to play in the NCAA Tournament is huge. We want this program to exposed to national competition, that is what we do in our non-conference season. We want to put Calvin on the map for women's lacrosse."
Ellis Chalfant posted 15 saves in the victory.
Kelly Pepper led the way with four assists.
Saint Mary's finished the game with 23 turnovers, Amanda Davio led the way with four caused turnovers.
Calvin also won the battle of ground balls on Saturday, 27-20. Emma Verrett led the Knights with five.
The longest MIAA Tournament streak in women's lacrosse has been Adrian from 2013 to 2014. The Knights started the streak with a 12-11 victory in 2016 at Albion and followed that up with the first-ever shutout in MIAA Tournament history with a 15-0 victory over Hope in 2017.
Calvin will find out its opponent on Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. in the NCAA Selection Show.