Lynchburg, Va. -- From day one of the University of Lynchburg field hockey season, the Hornets have talked about being champions.
Saturday night, it became a reality.
Top-seeded Lynchburg took the Old Dominion Athletic Conference crown in decisive fashion, blasting second-seeded Shenandoah, 7-2, at home on Shellenberger Field in the title game.
It was Lynchburg's 11th-straight victory and marked the program's ODAC-leading 19th conference championship, all of which have come under head coach Enza Steele.
Sophomore forwards Jackie Lerro (Royersford, Pa.) and Emily Dudley (Westminster, Md.) both scored twice for Lynchburg's offense. Senior forward Nikki Simpao (Stafford, Va.) added a goal and three assists, and senior forward Isabella Eldridge (Mount Pleasant, S.C.) and sophomore defender Alexis Brown (Culpeper, Va.) also scored for Lynchburg. The Hornets' offensive outburst was their third-highest of the season.
Lynchburg wasted no time getting on the board as Eldridge's sixth-minute pass found Lerro on the far post, who tapped into the open cage for an early lead. Eldridge added a goal of her own in the ninth minute, and the senior has now scored in three straight games since returning to the starting lineup after a midseason injury.
The host Hornets made it a 3-0 advantage when freshman midfielder Kaylie Truitt (Lewes, Del.) found Lerro for a deflection goal following a 12th-minute penalty corner.
Shenandoah bounced back for a goal of its own in the 21st minute, scored by Morgan Payne, but Lynchburg counterpunched with an unassisted goal by Dudley in the 23rd minute.
SU's Natalie Fyock again cut the deficit to two less than a minute after, but Lynchburg found the answer yet again. Dudley scored her second goal in the 32nd to send Lynchburg into halftime with a 5-2 advantage.
Lynchburg was able to savor the moment late, cruising to the finish line thanks to second-half goals by Simpao and Brown.
Lerro, Brown, Simpao, and senior midfielder Kayla Copeman (Williamsburg, Va.) earned all-tournament team honors.
Lynchburg earns the ODAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament and will await its national championship draw. The bracket will be announced at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4.
Check back on LynchburgSports.com for a full story and details on Lynchburg's NCAA tournament run.
2018 ODAC Field Hockey All-Tournament Team
Alexis Brown, Lynchburg
Kayla Copeman, Lynchburg
Kelly Fennessy, Washington and Lee
Kelsey Jones, Shenandoah
Jackie Lerro, Lynchburg
Morgan Payne, Shenandoah
Maddie Price, Shenandoah
Nikki Simpao, Lynchburg
Kaylin Stenson, Roanoke
Emilee Wooten, Roanoke
Ariyel Yavalar, Washington and Lee