SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. - The Salisbury University field hockey team earned a chance to avenge its only loss of the season and play for the national championship by topping Tufts University, 1-0, in the national semifinals played Saturday afternoon at Mount Holyoke College.
Facing a type of defense the Sea Gulls were not used to made for a challenge, but one that Salisbury was able to overcome.
"We knew it was going to be a very different style of game for us," said Salisbury head coach Dawn Chamberlin. "Tufts plays a different zone defense and it's something we haven't seen all year. We knew we were going to have to make some adjustments; it took us a little longer than I had hoped to make those adjustments - pretty much a whole half - before we were able to start generating some offense and doing the things we normally do. We came out very, very strong in the second half and dominated the second half and we were able to get a goal and hold on to it."
That goal came in the 46th minute when Salisbury (19-1) was awarded one of its six penalty corners in the match. Senior midfielder Michelle Rowe (Elkton, Md.) started the corner with a crisp pass to the top of the circle where sophomore back Tara McGovern (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) settled the ball and took a rip toward the goal. Sophomore forward Alison Bloodsworth (Delmar, Md.) was able to get a stick on the ball, tipping it into the air and past Tufts keeper Marianna Zak for the 1-0 lead.
"It was just straight out to Tara, who shot the ball and, basically, I just tipped it into the left corner," Bloodsworth said.
McGovern collected the assist on the play, making an impact on both ends of the field. After sophomore goalkeeper Anna Cooke (Ann Arbor, Mich.) made a key save on one of Tufts' first scoring chances 19 minutes into the first half, stopping Melissa Burke, the rebound went back to Burke who fired another shot. With Cooke still repositioning following the save, McGovern stopped the shot that seemed destined for the back of the cage, recording her first defensive save of the season at the perfect time.
McGovern and the rest of the defense, led by junior Ashley Kisner (Duncannon, Pa.), freshman Emily Ellenberger (Gaithersburg, Md.) and sophomore Shannon Hanratty (Arnold, Md.), helped Cooke to record the team's 12th shutout of the season.
"I always like a game with as few shots as possible, that's the best game I could ever ask for," Cooke said. "My defense definitely stepped up this game and helped me keep the shutout."
Cooke needed to make just two saves, sending Salisbury to a place it has historically been very comfortable, having won all four national title games it has played in; the Gulls captured the title in 1986, along with a three-year run in 2003, 2004, and 2005.
The 2009 national championship match is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22. Salisbury will take on Messiah College in a rematch of the Sea Gulls' only loss of the year, a 3-2 overtime defeat on Sept. 19 at Sea Gull Stadium. Messiah advanced to the title game with a 4-3, come-from-behind victory against Ursinus College earlier on Saturday.