Vanderbilt lacrosse defeats East Carolina 19-12 on Alumni Day

The Commodores outlasted East Carolina thanks to Gabby Fornia’s historic day.

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Miguel Beristain

Vanderbilt lacrosse huddles up at the end of a game against Liberty on Feb. 12, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)

Andrew Wilf, Deputy Sports Editor

On Saturday, the No. 26 Vanderbilt Commodores (8-5) rolled past East Carolina (8-6), 19-12. After losing two consecutive games, the Commodores got back in the win column thanks to an offensive attack led by Bri Gross, Gabby Fornia and Maddie Souza. Fornia’s day was historic, as her four goals helped her pass Margie Curran for the most career points in Commodore history.

“Gabby is obviously one of the greatest players to ever go through our program,” head coach Beth Hewitt told The Hustler. “We knew this was an opportunity with the type of player she is. But, I thought it was impressive to be able to do it on our last point of the day.”

Hewitt wanted her squad to impose their will right from the first whistle, and Gross did just that. The senior midfielder notched her 23rd goal of the season by finding the back of the net within the first minute of action. A few minutes later, East Carolina’s Nicole Legar assisted Erin Gulden to level the game at one apiece. Vanderbilt’s Souza and Kayla Rieu scored in consecutive minutes to give the Commodores a two-score lead with 10:08 remaining in the first quarter. Vanderbilt’s lead was threatened later in the period, however, but freshman Kemper Robinson’s goal gave the Commodores a 5-3 cushion at the end of the quarter.

The Commodore lead evaporated within the first six minutes of the second quarter, as Gulden and Payton Barr capitalized on Vanderbilt’s defensive miscues. After surrendering two goals, Robinson and Karlie Bucci provided Vanderbilt with a much-needed response, giving the Commodores a 7-5 lead with 8:17 remaining in the first half. The Pirates and Commodores traded goals for the rest of the quarter as Vanderbilt led East Carolina 9-7 at halftime. 

The first four minutes of the third quarter was a scoreless affair as neither team was able to find the back of the net. Gulden provided the first goal of the second half for East Carolina, resulting in a hat trick for the freshman. Nearly a minute later—with 9:21 remaining in the period—Ella Smith drove from the right edge of the crease to the other side of the field and struck a shot that was too fast to be defended. In the last 90 seconds of the third quarter, Vanderbilt’s two-score lead was tarnished due to Gulden and Sophia Locciero scoring for the Pirates. East Carolina and Vanderbilt entered the fourth quarter tied at 10 apiece.

With three minutes elapsed in the last period of play, Souza scored off a pass from Vanderbilt’s all-time assist leader Fornia. The Commodores’ lead grew soon after as Gross and Souza notched consecutive goals. Leading East Carolina 13-10 gave the Commodores an opportunity to run away with the lead. Vanderbilt continued to attack the tired Pirates defense, outscoring East Carolina 9-2 in the fourth quarter. Vanderbilt’s 19-12 win marked their first victory in AAC competition this season. 

“We made our adjustments after the third quarter,” Hewitt said. “We just felt like we couldn’t take over the game until we controlled the draw. I thought Bri Gross did a really good job of doing that for us.”

Vanderbilt will hope to build off their momentum on Saturday, April 16 at 11:30 a.m. CDT when they will host the No. 8 Florida Gators.

“We will need to play a clean game against Florida and that has been our Achilles Heel this year,” Hewitt said. “I thought the second half was the way you want to go into a week against against Florida and we’re excited to play them at home. We’ve played them away a lot over the last couple years.”