SALISBURY, Md. - For the third straight year the Salisbury University women's lacrosse team has advanced to the NCAA Division III national semifinals as the top-ranked Sea Gulls won their regional with an 18-14 victory over No. 11 Catholic University of America on a picturesque Sunday afternoon at Sea Gull Stadium.
The Sea Gulls (19-1) will face No. 7 Gettysburg College (16-3) in the first of two national semifinals on Saturday, May 16, at 5 p.m. in Salem, Va. Defending national champion and fifth-ranked Hamilton College (16-2) will square-off against No. 2 Franklin & Marshall College (19-1) in the eight o'clock evening semifinal.
Salisbury is 2-2 all-time against Gettysburg with a 1-0 record against the Bullets in NCAA tournament play. The Gulls last met the Bullets in the regional final on May 9, 2004 where SU won 8-5 and advanced to the program's second national semifinal. This will be the sixth national semifinal appearance for the Sea Gulls since 2000 and the fifth in the past six seasons.
SU was led by senior midfielder Robyn Bishop as she matched her career-high with six goals scored. Salisbury, the fourth-ranked scoring offense in Division III, met its scoring average as the Gulls scored 18 goals against the Top 20 scoring defense.
"I was really pumped up today," said Bishop. "This is our year. We are sick of being the team watching somebody else get the [national championship] trophy."
SU's attack unit netted 13 points today as the group of junior Beth Rhodey (two goals, two assists), and sophomores Trish DiGirolomo (one goal), Meagan Osipowich (three goals, one assist) and Logan Bilderback (two goals, two assists) has scored 25 points in two days.
Senior midfielder Ashleigh Gender scored two goals and dished out one assist while senior Courtney Sorenson and Amanda Holsclaw each scored one goal in the victory.
The Salisbury defense was given a tough test in the regional final as they were asked to stop the nation's 11th best point producer in Cardinal midfielder Kate Robinson (seven goals, two assists). Robinson and the Cardinals (17-4) struck first with a free position just a minute and a half into the game. Robinson kept her team in the game in the second half as she scored four of her game-high seven goals. In the two games this weekend Robinson scored 15 goals and three assists.
"We needed to focus on Robinson. She can take over a game," said SU coach Jim Nestor. "We knew we had to do our job defensively."
SU reeled off three straight goals to answer Robinson's first mark of the day. CUA closed the lead to one, 3-2, 10 minutes into the game before SU added some distance with an 8-3 run to close out the first half. The Sea Gulls took an 11-5 advantage into the half.
The teams traded goals four times to begin the second half before the Cardinals netted three straight to pull to within three, 14-11, at the 16:53 mark and forced Nestor to call a timeout.
"The timeout helped us," said SU senior defender and co-captain Holly Johnson.
Out of the timeout, SU won the draw control (15-of-24) and went straight to the Cardinal cage. Rhodey scored her 50th goal of the season as she shot it past CUA goalie Melissa Brashear (eight saves) to end the Cardinal run 19 seconds out of the timeout. Rhodey's goal was the eventual game-winner.
Catholic wasn't done as the Cardinals scored back-to-back goals to decrease the SU lead to 15-13 with 11 minutes to play. Salisbury scored three of the final four goals to close out the second half and win the regional.
The Cardinals were led offensively by Robinson, Laura Haring (two goals, two assists) and Mary Swarthout (two goals, one assist).
SU outshot the Cardinals 36-27, scooped up 22 ground balls to Catholic's 15 and converted 18-of-24 clear opportunities.
The Sea Gulls handled Catholic's defensive pressure as the Cardinals entered the game as the best team in the nation at causing turnovers (19.78 per game). The Cardinals only caused nine of Salisbury's 14 turnovers. On the other side of the field Salisbury's defense caused 17 of Catholic's 20 turnovers. The Salisbury defense is made up of seniors Sarah Maggio (one caused turnover), Sarah McKinley (five caused turnovers, two ground balls) and Johnson (two caused turnovers, two ground balls) along with junior Jess Glazer (three caused turnovers, six ground balls). SU senior goalie Sonja Stuart made nine saves, caused one turnover and scooped up three ground balls in the victory.
The next stop for Salisbury is Salem, Va., the location of last year's national championship and where SU lost 11-10 to Hamilton in the semifinals. The Sea Gulls hope for a different result this season.
"We have a very strong senior class and team. Everybody can contribute," said Bishop.
Johnson echoed Bishop's remarks about the seniors; "this is our last year and we need to get it done."
2009 NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse Championship
Sunday, May 10
#1 Salisbury 18, #11 Catholic 14 | Box Score