James Madison’s long awaited return to the NCAA Tournament ended Sunday evening in the first round with a 2-1 loss to Central Florida in Wilson, N.C.

Josiah Blanton scored a goal early in the second half to tie the game for the Dukes (5-1-3), but the Golden Knights offense found the net once in each half to win the battle of nationally-ranked mid-major programs.

UCF advances to face the winner of second-seeded Pittsburgh versus Monmouth. JMU, which went unbeaten in the regular season and used a pair of penalty kick shootout victories in the CAA Tournament to secure an NCAA berth, bowed out in the first round for the second consecutive tournament.

Normally a fall event, this NCAA playoff was postponed to the spring thanks to COVID-19. JMU won’t have to wait long to attempt to win a fourth-straight CAA title and make another run to the NCAA Tournament under coach Paul Zazenski as sport returns to the fall next season.

The Dukes entered the NCAA playoff with the nation’s top-ranked defense, having given up just one regulation goal since the end of March. But the Golden Knights (9-3-1) struck quickly with Gino Vivi taking an assist from Lucca Dourado to find the goal less than four minutes into the match.

JMU answered early in the second half when Blanton tied it off an assist from Melker Anshelm. But UCF quickly regained the lead with Dourado again on the assist, this time finding Mauricio Villalobos to make it 2-1 with 36 minutes remaining.

The Dukes put pressure on UCF over the course of the final 10 minutes, but couldn’t convert on a pair of late corner opportunities. JMU goalie TJ Bush, who came in leading the NCAA in goals against average, finished with three saves.

In other college sports over the weekend:

College Softball

James Madison 6, College of Charleston 0: Odicci Alexander tossed a complete game, giving up no runs on just one hit and two walks while striking out 11 and also added a homer and three RBIs at the plate in James Madison’s impressive 6-0 win over College of Charleston in Harrisonburg on Sunday.

Page County product Kate Gordon went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs for the Dukes (30-1, 17-1 CAA) while Sara Jubas had a solo homer and Hannah Shifflett had an RBI double. Madison Naujokas also had a hit for JMU.

On Saturday, the Dukes got two more dominating performances as Alissa Humphrey tossed a no-hitter in an 8-0 win over the Cougar to start the day before Alexander followed that up with a perfect game in a 9-0 victory.

Jubas went 4-for-6 in the two games, scoring four runs while drawing two walks. Naujokas stole three bases while Alexander also had a two-run home run.

College Baseball

James Madison 9, Saint Joseph’s 8: Carson Bell and Bryce Safferwich had two hits apiece as James Madison held on for a 9-8 non-conference home win over Saint Joeseph’s on Sunday afternoon in the second game of a doubleheader.

Kyle Novak added two RBIs for the Dukes (9-11) while Nick Zona was 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs. Chase DeLauter also had a hit and an RBI.

Coincidentally, JMU won the first game by a score of 9-8, too.

In that contest, it was Travis Reifsnider’s RBI single to center in the bottom of the ninth inning that gave the Dukes a thrilling walk-off victory.

Turner Ashby product Justin Showalter started on the mound, giving up seven runs on seven hits and two walks while striking one in four innings of work.

Reifsnider had two hits for JMU while Novak was 3-for-5 with a double and five RBIs and Bell and Dom Cepullio added an RBI apiece in the key win.

Lynchburg 12, Bridgewater 1: Kyle Carlson was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, but Bridgewater suffered a 12-1 loss to Lynchburg on the road Sunday.

Jeffrey Snider was 2-for-3 for the Eagles (11-13, 10-12 ODAC) while Jarrett Biesecker, Brett Tharp, Brandan Hartman and Collin Reid all finished with a hit.

Earlier that day, Biesecker, Hartman and Carlson finished with two hits apiece but Bridgewater suffered a disappointing 17-1 rout at the hands of the Hornets.

Men’s Tennis

North Carolina Wilmington 4, James Madison 0: James Madison saw its season come to a end with a 4-0 loss at the hands of North Carolina Wilmington in the Colonial Athletic Association semifinals on Saturday in Williamsburg.

The Dukes finished the season with 8-8 overall record.

Washington and Lee 5, Bridgewater 0: Bridgewater’s season came to a close with a disappointing 5-0 loss to top-seeded Washington and Lee on Sunday in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference quarterfinals in Lexington.

The Eagles finished the season with an overall record of 6-8.

Women’s Volleyball

Washington and Lee 3, Bridgewater 0: Outside hitter Hope Jennings scooped up 16 digs and added five kills, but Bridgewater saw its season come to an end with a 25-16, 25-13, 25-19 sweep at the hands of Washington and Lee in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference semifinals on Saturday in Lexington.

Ashley Casey and Siena Naotala added four kills apiece for the Eagles (8-5, 7-4 ODAC) while Jyailah Friendly had 12 digs and Grace Hayes dished out 20 assists.

Davidson, Otto Capture Gold For Dukes

Skyla Davidson and Jordan Otto led the way for James Madison at the CAA women’s track and field championships at Sentara Park on Saturday.

Davidson claimed first place in the triple jump while Otto won the high jump.

As a team, the Dukes finished sixth with a total of 71 points. Elon (191.5) won.

Contact Shane Mettlen at 574-6244 or smettlen@dnronline.com. Follow Shane on Twitter: @Shane_DNRSports

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