LANCASTER, Pa. – In a four-day stretch, the No. 10 Salisbury University women's lacrosse team took the field against the top two teams in the country. Downing then-No. 2 State University of New York at Cortland on Sunday, the Sea Gulls followed in suit on Wednesday night against No. 1 Franklin & Marshall College with an 8-7 victory off a late goal by junior Megan Wallenhorst and a defensive wall in the closing minutes that couldn't be broken.
With less than five minutes remaining, the Sea Gulls found an opportunity to break a 7-7 tie with the Diplomats, seeing Wallenhorst at the top of the fan for a free-position attempt. Crashing down the middle, the junior took a shot left, but Diplomat goalkeeper Danielle Harrington made the crucial save to send the ball the other way.
It was Salisbury that now had to find a way to tighten up in the defensive third to keep Franklin & Marshall from stealing the game late. With the ball in the stick of Grace Saliba, sophomore Kayla Miller was able to make a clean stick check to pop the ball loose. Senior Anna Sparr charged in for the loose ball, scooping it up to give the Sea Gulls one more opportunity to take the lead with four minutes remaining in regulation.
The defensive effort was just the momentum change Salisbury needed to ignite the offense, as senior Kara O'Rourke and Wallenhorst connected on the game winner with 2:59 remaining. O'Rourke, carrying the ball around the back side of the goal, moved patiently waiting for the play to evolve at the top of the fan. Waiting just long enough, Wallenhorst found a gap on the right side of the fan to bolt down the middle where O'Rourke connected on the high pass. The junior pulled the ball in and sent it into the left side of the net for the 8-7 advantage.
The Diplomats, winning the draw control on the restart, still had over two minutes left in regulation to knot the score back up and send the game to overtime, but the back field of Salisbury and freshman goalkeeper Gianna Falcone were locked in.
With 1:30 remaining, Diplomat Brittney Jorgenson saw an opportunity fly just wide left, but Franklin & Marshall maintained possession. It was just seconds later that Emily Everdell found some room cutting across the middle of the fan for a one-on-one chance against Falcone. Firing a side-armed shot, Falcone pulled in the save. But the Diplomats weren't done yet. With 40 seconds remaining, Anastasia Mergner was awarded a free-position attempt on the left side of the fan. Bolting down for Franklin & Marshall's last opportunity, Mergner shot low and Falcone swung her stick around for the game-saving turn away to seal up the 8-7 upset.
The game was tight throughout, only seeing the biggest lead at two goals in favor of the Diplomats after a 2-0 start. Salisbury answered right back with two-straight goals from Wallenhorst's first of three for the game and senior Kate Haker receiving a ball from sophomore Kacy Koolage for a high finish.
It was taking turns on goal from there, as Franklin & Marshall answered with a goal before the Gulls went two straight again with finishes by Haker and Wallenhorst to give Salisbury its first lead of the game, 4-3, with 8:51 remaining in the first half.
The Diplomats found the back of the net two more times before the break, including a finish with four seconds remaining, to take a 5-4 advantage into the half. But, the Sea Gulls only needed 35 seconds on the restart to draw the score even again, seeing O'Rourke roll tight along the crease on the right side for an unassisted finish.
Both squads traded goals the rest of the way until Wallenhorst connected on the final lead change to seal the 8-7 win. The two goals in the stretch before Wallenhorst's game winner were scored by O'Rourke, who recorded the first hat trick of her collegiate career.
Falcone recorded her sixth-consecutive victory in the net, tending for the full 60 minutes and making six saves. The Sea Gull defense caused 10 turnovers of the 14 total by the Diplomats. Leading the way was Sparr with a game-high three takeaways and two ground balls, while Falcone intercepted two passes and picked up three loose balls.
The women will travel home for their next matchup, as they get back into Capital Athletic Conference play against the University of Mary Washington on Saturday, March 28. The game will be the Sea Gulls' Pink Game. First draw is set for 1 p.m.