SALISBURY, Md. – For the 13th-consecutive season and 15th time in program history, the No. 8 Salisbury University women's lacrosse team hoisted the Capital Athletic Conference trophy after downing No. 13 York College of Pennsylvania, 6-3, Saturday afternoon at Sea Gull Stadium.
The last time the two squads met earlier in the season, the result was very similar with a three-goal difference. Saturday afternoon the goalkeepers and the line in front of them were on top of their game, allowing just a combined nine goals for the contest.
Freshman goalkeeper Gianna Falcone, turning away 11 shots the first time the Gulls played the Spartans this year, pulled in eight attempts, while Rachel Donovan made four saves for York.
With the Spartans earning the opening draw, the Sea Gull defense had its first test and didn't disappoint, holding York from a shot for four minutes. A foul would draw the play dead and award York's Jayme Verman with a free-position attempt, but Falcone collected her first save of the day on the shot to conclude the stellar defensive performance to start the game.
The Sea Gulls would be the first to strike by the 21:22 mark, with senior Bethany Baer finding sophomore Hannah Young diving down the fan for the high finish over Donovan. This was just the beginning of a big day for Baer, who finished with a game-high five points off three goals and two assists.
York answered quickly after the Young finish, scoring its first two minutes later to draw the score even, 1-1.
The scoring for both teams would go silent for the next nine minutes of play, with both keepers registering a save before Baer caused a York turnover that transitioned into the lead for Salisbury again. Getting the successful clear, Baer slashed down the middle of the fan, drawing the defense towards her. Just before the senior hit the crease, she dished the ball over to her left where sophomore Gabbi Nieves found open space and a quick shot low for the 2-1 lead.
Once again, the Spartans didn't settle, equalizing the game for what would be the last time for the game. Before the end of the half, Baer helped the Gulls gain the advantage that would hold for the remainder of the game. Rolling around the backside of the crease from right to left, the senior midfielder turned quickly inside for a high shot over Donovan's left shoulder and the 3-2 lead at the break.
Baer took control of the game in the second half, scoring the first two goals off the restart to extend the Sea Gull lead to three. Scoring the first one in under a minute at the start of the second half, she followed it up with another unassisted finish on a tight top-shelf finish.
The final touch was put on by the Sea Gulls at the 11:06 mark, seeing senior Kate Haker get an unassisted finish on a tight crease roll on the left side for the high finish.
York would make one last attempt to get back into the game with five minutes remaining, finding the back of the net to cut the deficit to three, but the Sea Gull defense held strong to close out the game for a 6-3 decision.
Salisbury's backline scooped eight loose balls from the game, with Baer, senior Laura Maskell and sophomore Kieran Kelleher all registering two apiece. Senior Hayden Hutzell and Baer each caused a turnover for the game.
With the victory, the women earned the conference's automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament. This is the 16th appearance for the Sea Gulls in the big dance. In the past five seasons, Salisbury has advanced to the national championship game, hoisting the trophy three times.
The Sea Gulls will await their placement into the tournament on Sunday, May 3 when the field is announced. The selection show will begin at 9:30 p.m., on NCAA.com. Be sure to check out www.suseagulls.com for all postseason information and the women's lacrosse's Road to Philadelphia.