Lacrosse: Fornia breaks Vanderbilt records in Senior Day win over Cincinnati

With a record-breaking performance from Gabby Fornia, the Commodores dominated Cincinnati in their final game of the regular season.

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Hallie Williams

Gabby Fornia controls the ball against Mercer on Mar. 3, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Hallie Williams)

Anish Mago, Staff Writer

After a short celebration honoring their seniors, Vanderbilt lacrosse (10-6, 3-4) took down the Cincinnati Bearcats (7-10, 1-4), 23-7. Vanderbilt’s performance was led by Gabby Fornia, who totaled ten assists and 13 total points, breaking the Commodores’ record for assists and points in a single game. Following a dominant win last week, the Commodores continued to build momentum heading towards the postseason.

“I thought the girls came into this game really ready to go. I know they were very focused with it being Senior Day, and they really wanted to get this win for their upperclassmen,” head coach Beth Hewitt said. “I thought from last weekend through this week, everything we’ve been doing in practice has translated very well to gameday. We played a complete game.”

The Commodores came out of the gates firing, scoring two goals in just 50 seconds after the opening whistle. After winning the opening draw control, Fornia raced down the field before lifting a pass through the Cincinnati defense to find Maddie Souza at the back post, who finished calmly with a low shot. Following a quick reset, the Commodores found themselves in possession again, with Fornia making a run through the defense. This time around, Fornia took on the shot herself, finishing with a goal at the bottom right corner. 

After a few rough opening minutes, Cincinnati began to wrestle back control of the game with a hounding press in the midfield. The pressure resulted in a couple of chances for the Bearcats, both of which were converted by sophomore Elizabeth Murphy to tie the game with ten minutes remaining in the first period. Vanderbilt responded to Cincinnati’s surge with a dominant stretch, holding possession well in the attacking third and scoring four goals in just four minutes to take a 6-3 lead, due to a Bearcats’ counterattack that was converted. 

As the first quarter came towards a close, the creativity of Fornia was on full display. The graduate student slithered through the Bearcats’ defense in the 12-meter fan on multiple occasions, drawing out defenders and creating chances for her teammates. Her efforts resulted in five assists in the first quarter alone, with three assists in the final three minutes to help put the Commodores ahead 9-3 heading into the second quarter. 

“[Fornia] just kept moving the ball and sharing it. There’s times when our ball place is slow and I thought today we really improved that,” Hewitt said. “She’s always going to find the holes in a defense, and because she was moving it so fast, I felt that their defense had a hard time keeping up with her.”

It was senior Callie Sundin who started the second quarter off strong for the Commodores, converting two chances with well-placed shots to the upper corners of the net. With 12 minutes left in the second quarter, Vanderbilt had 11 goals on 18 shots, a testament to their dominant and efficient attacking display. Despite a couple free-position shot conversions from the Bearcats, the Commodores continued to dominate possession and pressure Cincinnati in the attacking third, converting their chances to jump out to a 13-5 lead. 

With six minutes remaining in the second quarter, Fornia again found herself in possession behind the Bearcats’ net. After patiently waiting for her forwards to catch up, Fornia found Sundin with a short pass, who scored her 25th goal of the season to extend the Commodores lead to 14-5. The assist from Fornia was her 50th of the season, the second time she has reached that mark in her Vanderbilt career. With a few more close-range conversions as the half drew to a close, the Commodores took a 16-5 lead into halftime. 

Vanderbilt picked up where they had left off in the second half, with Souza converting with a bullet strike into the side of the net just one minute into the half. Fornia again found herself in the action just a few minutes later, picking up another assist as she found a cutting Karlie Bucci just in front of the goal circle to extend the Commodores lead to 18-5. After earning her eighth assist of the afternoon, Fornia found herself just one assist away from tying the Vanderbilt single-game record, which was set by her in 2021. She also found herself one point away from tying the single-game points record of 12, a record she shared with alum April Tellam. 

After tying those records with an assist she provided to Nancy Halleron at the end of the third period, Fornia broke both records with a decisive pass to Karlie Bucci, who put the Commodores ahead 20-6 with 12 minutes remaining in the final quarter. Fornia added to an already extensive collection of records, including Vanderbilt’s career assists and points records. 

“Our ball movement was really quick and that really opened up a lot of opportunities for assists and feeds today,” Fornia said of Vanderbilt’s performance. “We had some really great cuts to the middle today, too, and that’s when we’re at our best. We were lucky that they heavily played zone, which gave us those opportunities.”

As both teams looked towards the end of a match with an already decided outcome, the Commodores were able to get a look at some of their rotational players. Vanderbilt continued to apply pressure with a squad heavily featuring freshmen and sophomores, extending their lead to 23-7 as time wound down in the final quarter.

After a 10-win campaign, the Commodores will head into the AAC tournament from May 5-7 following two dominant wins.