SALISBURY, MD – The No. 2 Salisbury University women's lacrosse team advanced to the program's ninth national championship weekend with an 8-6 win over No. 6 Franklin & Marshall College Sunday afternoon at Sea Gull Stadium.
It was the defense leading the way for Salisbury (21-0), with sophomore Laura Maskell and the rest of the defense keeping the front of the cage clear of Diplomats. Also charged with keeping the zone free were seniors Kat Gartner and Alyssa Hardesty, junior Meghan Toomey, sophomore Dominique Dipino, and freshman Allison Toomey. Dropping back into the defense zone were midfielders Bethany Baer and Kara Koolage to lend their efforts, keeping the Franklin & Marshall (16-5) attack seven goals under its season average.
The last line of defense, keeping the Diplomats from scoring, was junior goalie Ashton Wheatley, who made several big stops throughout the contest. The Cambridge, Md., native finished with seven saves, with five shots being fired from point blank range but turned away.
The plan of attack on offense, and execution of that plan, was different for Head Coach Jim Nestor and his team, as F&M face guarded senior Katie Bollhorst with defender Christie Bonfiglio from the beginning whistle until the final horn, not allowing the Severna Park, Md., native to facilitate the Sea Gull attack.
Instead, the Sea Gulls had to play a tough, grind-it-out contest that is often seen in the playoffs. The Sea Gulls jumped out to the lead just 49 seconds into the game when senior Lauren Feusahrens took a pass from classmate Maggie Roundy, worked the top of the offensive zone before streaking down the right side of the zone, able to rifle a shot past F&M goalie Kelsey Hoffman.
It would seem to be a typical Salisbury game, get out to a fast start and keep the pedal mashed to the floor, when the Sea Gulls would score just 37 seconds later. Feusahrens set up shop behind the Diplomat goal before circling around the right side of the cage and hit a cutting Bollhorst with a cross-crease pass, which Bollhorst one-timed into the back of the net. That goal proved to be anything but typical for the Sea Gulls, as the contest slowed down from that point and it was Bollhorst's only tally on the scoresheet on the afternoon.
Salisbury padded its lead to 3-0 with 12:24 gone by in the first half when Feusahrens netted her second, and final, goal of the afternoon when she circled around the zone, behind the net before working a shot, much like her first goal, with the same result.
F&M would answer with three goals of its own to end the half, including a free-position goal by Lauren Selawski with two seconds remaining in the first half. It was a game like no other for the 2013 team, as this was the first time the Sea Gulls were tied with their opponent at the half.
The Sea Gulls answered back in the second half, opening the scoring with three consecutive goals. As was the case with each of the goals in the first half, Salisbury's offense was effective circling the net before firing shots that got past Hoffman. Roundy worked that strategy to open the scoring in the second half nearly six minutes into the period, giving the Sea Gulls the lead for good.
Following a goal by sophomore Kate Haker, to push the lead to 5-3, Wheatley made a stop that seemed to take a bit of wind out of the Diplomat sails. With 22 minutes remaining in the contest, F&M's Brittney Jorgenson, who finishes the season with a team-high 49 goals for the Diplomats, came knocking at Wheatley's door, only to be denied with a stick save by the junior. From that point forward, there was a different tone to the contest, as Salisbury ratcheted up the defensive intensity another notch.
This was also the closest a game has been at the final horn for Salisbury. Previously, the closest game for the Sea Gulls had been six-goal affairs against this F&M squad and the State University of New York at Cortland in a game that was played on the Diplomats' home field.
With the win, Salisbury advances to a national semifinal against Middlebury College this Saturday, May 18. The same two teams faced off last season in the same round, with Salisbury advancing to the title game a season ago. The contest on Saturday is slated to begin at 10:30 a.m., and will be played at Mustang Stadium, on the campus of Stevenson University.