SALISBURY, Md. – In one of the most action-filled games in the first weekend of the 2015 NCAA Division III women's lacrosse tournament, No. 8 Salisbury University came up just short in a second-round double-overtime battle to No. 13 Hamilton College, 9-8, at Sea Gull Stadium Sunday afternoon.
It was a fight from start to finish, as the Sea Gulls (14-4) overcame two deficits through regulation, the first being three goals and the other being two, before claiming a late-game lead with four minutes remaining.
Working out of a two-goal hole following a connection between sophomore Hannah Young and junior Megan Wallenhorst and a free-position finish by senior Kara O'Rourke bringing the score to 7-7 with nine minutes remaining in regulation, the Gulls started gaining the momentum they were searching for.
Seeing Hamilton claim the draw control on the restart, the Sea Gull defense was faced with a challenge to keep the Continentals off the board and give the offense a chance to claim the lead. Hamilton managed to get off two shots, but both sailed wide, before senior Bethany Baer clashed on a stick check with Continentals' Ashleigh Stephan to force the turnover and send the ball the opposite way.
Able to get the clear, Baer got the ball back in her stick around the back side of the net. The senior captain waited patiently on the left side for Young to slice down the eight-meter fan, eventually sending a high pass into the middle of the defense for the quick-stick finish on a low shot for the first lead of the game, 8-7.
Salisbury's Laura Maskell won the draw on the restart, but a turnover inside of the fan gave Hamilton an offensive possession with just under two minutes remaining. Wasting no time on the transition, Hamilton's Morgan Fletcher sped down the field for a quick unassisted finish to draw the score even at 8-8.
Baer gave the Gulls a chance to reclaim the lead before the end of regulation with a clean win on the draw, but a great save by Continentals' goalkeeper Hannah Rubin on a free-position shot by Wallenhorst sent the ball the other way with 30 seconds left. Fletcher, who just scored for Hamilton, found another opportunity but a quick turn of the stick by freshman goalkeeper Gianna Falcone was enough to send the game to overtime.
Through the first six-minute overtime, it was still a battle between the keepers as it was for the full contest. Falcone opened the first three-minute segment of overtime with two difficult saves on low shots, before Rubin answered on the other end with two saves off shots by Baer and O'Rourke.
Both goalkeepers stayed hot heading into the sudden-death second overtime, both turning away free-position shots, but it was Hamilton that would get the final finish in the game, scoring less than two minutes into the second extra period. Following the save by Rubin, a timeout was called once a successful clear put Hamilton into its offensive third. It only took eight seconds on the restart for Darby Philbrick to get off a low shot in the crowded fan for the game-ending goal.
"We had our opportunities on offense and their goalie played really well," Head Coach Jim Nestor said. "Defensively, we didn't get back in transition, which led to those fast-break goals, something we haven't really seen all year."
The Sea Gull defense was tested all game, and put up quite a fight, including holding Hamilton from a score through the first five minutes of play. It was the Continentals though that gained the early 1-0 lead, before senior Kate Haker answered minutes later on a tight curl around the crease to draw the score even.
Junior Katelin Talbert and Young opened the second half with a goal apiece to draw the score even, but this is when Hamilton went on to its final two-goal advantage before the Gulls battled back before the end of regulation.
Falcone turned away 10 shots for the game, two saves shy of a career high, in her 67:56 of tending the net. She concludes her freshman season with a 13-1 overall record, while sporting a 5.17 goals-against average, marking her as the top goalkeeper in the country in the category.
"She did real well," Nestor said about Falcone's day in the net against Hamilton. "As a freshman and stepping up in another big game, she did very well."
The senior class, including Baer, O'Rourke, Haker, Maskell, Hayden Hutzell, Alyssa Harmke, Dominique DiPino, and Anna Sparr, donned the maroon and gold through an incredible collegiate career, hoisting four Capital Athletic Conference trophies and bringing two-consecutive national championships to the Eastern Shore.
"Two-time national champs. Been to the final four all those years. It's disappointing for them to go out in an early round, but like we've told them 'to be a champ you have to play everybody," Nestor said about the senior class. "I'm so proud of them and everything they have accomplished through these four years, with the leadership, even from the ones that couldn't be on the field and with how bad they wanted to be on the field. They just did a really great job."