SALISBURY, Md. – For the 13th-straight year, the top-seeded Salisbury University women's lacrosse team is headed back to the Capital Athletic Conference championship game after battling out fifth-seeded University of Mary Washington to a 6-4 victory on Saturday afternoon at Sea Gull Stadium.
It was a defensive showdown all game, seeing three combined turnovers, two for the Sea Gulls, in the opening eight minutes. Seniors Bethany Baer and Laura Maskell forced the possession change in that order, before Baer found the back of the net to give Salisbury the 1-0 lead. On the left side of the eight-meter fan, Baer quickly sliced toward the crease, dodging outside past an Eagle defender and dropping a high shot over Mary Washington's goalkeeper Taylor Paige for the finish.
That was the first goal of a game-high three for the senior, as she tacked on the next two for the Gulls. Following an Eagle goal to even the score, Baer hooked up with senior Kara O'Rourke to regain the advantage. O'Rourke, on the right side of the crease, drew a double team, freeing up Baer. Sending the ball overtop the defense to the senior midfielder behind the net, Baer bolted up to the front of the goal for a high-shot finish.
With five minutes remaining in the first half, Baer was at it again. A yellow card for the Eagles put them a player down and Baer capitalized on a free-position shot from the left side of the fan to extend the lead to 3-1.
The scoring continued for Salisbury several minutes later, seeing sophomore Gabbi Nieves utilize her speed from the top of the offensive third. With the ball, Nieves crashed down the right side of the fan, dodging inside for a low shot past Paige.
Freshman Gianna Falcone looked to hold the score at 4-1 with her first save of the game on a free-position attempt by Eagles' Holly Hudson, but Mary Washington found the back of the net one more time before the break off a Corrine Wiederkehr finish to cut the Sea Gull lead to 4-2 at the half.
The final 30 minutes was kicked off by a goal less than three minutes in by Salisbury. O'Rourke sending a pass overtop the net to junior Katelin Talbert was mishandled, but the redirection was enough to roll across the goal line and into the back of the net.
The Eagles answered at the 19:04 mark, but the Sea Gulls wouldn't take it lightly, scoring their final goal with 15 minutes remaining. O'Rourke, again drawing the defense towards her on the right side of the crease, sent a pass to the left side where junior Megan Wallenhorst found open space, receiving the helper high for a quick-stick finish.
With time ticking down, Mary Washington found the back of the net once more, but SU's backline held strong through the remainder of the game to hold the 6-4 decision.
The defensive third for Salisbury held the Eagles to just nine shots for the game, six on goal, while causing eight turnovers. Baer and Maskell paced the backfield with three and two, respectively. Maskell also registered a game-high five ground balls in her first game back since Washington and Lee University on March 7.
Baer and O'Rourke led the offensive charge for the game, as Baer finished with three goals and O'Rourke recorded a game-high three assists. O'Rourke has now sent out 46 helpers for the season, placing her seventh in the country.
Falcone earned the win in the net, making two saves through her 60 minutes of play. The freshman's 5.09 goals-against average holds her as the top keeper in the country.
As the top seed in the tournament, Salisbury will host the title game next Saturday, May 2, against the winner of the other semifinal match second-seeded York College of Pennsylvania. The Spartans advanced past third-seeded St. Mary's College of Maryland, 11-6, to set up a rematch of the past three title games. For more on start time or any other postseason information, check out www.suseagulls.com as it becomes available.