OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The No. 2 Salisbury University women's lacrosse team toppled the No. 1 team in the nation, Trinity (Conn.) College, 12-5, in the NCAA Division III National Championship Game on Sunday afternoon. The win avenged the Sea Gulls' loss to the Bantams in the 2012 title game, the only other meeting between the two programs.
"I think the best word to describe it ... it's just sweet," Salisbury senior Maggie Roundy said following the win. Roundy, Katie Bollhorst and Kara Koolage are the only three players on the team who also played on the program's 2010 title team. "Coming off last year, we were on the bus and I'm pretty sure every girl, in their minds, was thinking, all right, let's get to work. We've got to come back and redeem ourselves. To think about it in the back of your mind every single day and to finally get here, there's really no words, it's just awesome."
The national championship is the second for the SU women's lacrosse program, and 17th overall team title for the Salisbury University athletics program.
Last season, Trinity jumped out to a 4-0 lead through the opening half, and Sunday it was the Sea Gulls who made the most of their early opportunities, scoring on their first three possessions and added another tally a few minutes later for a 4-0 edge of their own.
Roundy found classmate Koolage streaking down the middle, and she planted the ball in the left side for the 1-0 lead, just 88 seconds into the game.
Sophomore Kate Haker came from behind the cage for an unassisted marker to make it 2-0, and on Salisbury's third chance, Bollhorst connected with classmate Lauren Feusahrens for the 3-0 lead, prompting a Trinity timeout.
Five minutes later, Baer set up Roundy, as the senior darted around the net and took the pass on the post, finishing for the 4-0 lead.
"We got a very good start, even though we weren't doing real well in the draw control," Salisbury Head Coach Jim Nestor said. "Offensively, we took our time. We were very patient, and when she called the timeout, I was telling our players, don't get too high because Cortland was up 3-0 (on Saturday against Trinity). We wanted to take it one second, one minute, one play at a time."
After the Bantams scored two free-position goals to cut the lead to 4-2, Salisbury put home two to close out the half and take a four-goal edge into the break.
Roundy came from behind the goal, ducking the stick of a Trinity defender and firing across Trinity goalkeeper Emily Mooney at a sharp angle to push the lead to 5-2, and Baer put home a free-position shot from the right wing, going top right on Mooney to make it 6-2.
A late save on each end of the field, kept the split at four goals, with Salisbury junior Ashton Wheatley turning away Shea Kusiak, cutting across the front of the cage, four yards out, and Mooney cut down a shot by Haker coming from behind the going to the lower-left corner at the horn.
Wheatley, who would be named the championship's Most Outstanding Player, finished with nine saves on Sunday, following her 12-save performance in the semifinals on Saturday.
"I have been so successful the past couple of years because I'm shooting against the best goaltender in the country every day at practice," Bollhorst said. "Other goalies are awesome, but when you're shooting against the returning Goaltender of the Year, every day you know that when you make a shot against Ashton, it's going in against anyone. She's an amazing goalkeeper, an amazing athlete and she's helped me develop my game so much the past couple of years."
The six goals scored by SU tied the most Trinity had allowed in a first half this season, matching The College of New Jersey in the quarterfinals last weekend.
Starting the second half, the Bantams (21-1) scored the first goal to cut the Sea Gull advantage to 6-3, but it was as close as Trinity would get the rest of the game.
Feusahrens scored two of Salisbury's next three goals, with a Bollhorst tally in the middle, allowing the Gulls to go up 9-4 with over 23 minutes left.
Caroline Hayes made it 9-5 before Salisbury scored the final three goals, two more from Feusahrens, and then stalled for the closing five minutes to collect the national championship.
"I thought it was a great game," Head Coach Jim Nestor said. "Today, what we've work on all week, leading up to this weekend, it paid off with all the hard work. The players went with the game plan to a 'T', and they executed exactly the way we wanted them to. Defensively, I thought we played great. Ashton, again, was superb, and it really resulted in that win today."
The win gives Salisbury its 23rd win of the season, a new program record, and brings to the end the careers of seniors Feusahrens, Bollhorst, Koolage, Roundy, defenders Alyssa Hardesty and Kat Gartner.
Feusahrens, Roundy, Baer, junior Meghan Toomey and Wheatley were all named to the All-Tournament Team.