May 23, 2010

Salisbury Women Win Elusive Division III Title

by Jeff Cook | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Game Blog

GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Big Brother casts a large shadow in the lacrosse world at Salisbury University.

On Sunday afternoon at Clark Field on the campus of Gettysburg College in the NCAA Division III women's championship, Little Sister finally emerged.

The men's team has won eight -- and counting -- NCAA titles. After reaching the championship for the fourth time, including three in the last four years, the Salisbury women won their first-ever national crown with a heart-stopping 7-6 victory over previously undefeated Hamilton College.

The Sea Gulls overcame an early three-goal deficit and hung on for a win that went to the wire. A potential game-tying goal by Hamilton's Libby Schultz came just after time expired and Nestor's club could celebrate at last.

"We thought they were in shooting space -- so did Jim Nestor -- but it wasn't called. He was happy and I was sad," said dejected Hamilton head coach Patty Kloidt of the conclusion. "I would like to see it on video -- and I will, but you have to roll with the punches. You can't wait until the last minute and expect to get help from the referees. Salisbury played a great game. I congratulate them on their first championship."

 

2010 NCAA Division III women's lacrosse champion Salisbury celebrates after edging Hamilton 7-6 in the final Sunday.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

After Aileen McCausland's heat-seeking missile found the target and gave her team its first lead of the game at 7-6 with 5:26 to play, the Gulls milked more than three minutes off the clock. When two Continentals were yellow-carded, Salisbury found even more space to play keep-away. A turnover gave Hamilton (21-1) one last chance with less than a minute left, but the Sea Gulls survived.

Defense was on display at the outset. Maybe the shooters were tight, but scoring was at a premium, and Hamilton's deliberate offense sheared minutes off the clock. Meanwhile, Continentals goalkeeper Kate Fowler made clutch stops to thwart the Sea Gulls and totaled seven saves by intermission.

Hamilton proved adept at drawing contact at the offensive end and scored three free position goals in the initial 11 minutes to seize a 3-0 advantage. Anne Gravely struck first before Liz Rave twice beat Sea Gulls goalie Julie Caulfield on freeze-frame forays.

Salisbury (21-1) got on the board when Carrie Bray finally solved Fowler in the upper right corner. Hamilton answered when Kate Otley cashed in an eight-shot possession to make it 4-1 at the 11:17 mark.

The Sea Gulls inched closer when Jessica Chmielewski finished off a feed from Trish DiGirolomo, then dished to a wide-open Logan Bilderback, who used a pump-fake to slip one past Fowler.

Hamilton came up empty on its final possession but entered the break with a 4-3 lead.

Salisbury's leading scorer Kim Cudmore forged a second-half tie when she took a pass from Chmielewski, juked and jived to beat Fowler. Schultz put the Continentals back in front with an assist by Rachel Friedman as the teams see-sawed through the second half.

"They started figuring out the holes in our defense and that really made a difference for them," Fowler said of Salisbury's resurgence.

When Fowler got caught behind the cage on a free position call, Bilderback picked off a pass and waltzed into the empty net for the equalizer. Rave, who led all scorers with three goals, finished off a free position chance with an overhand right to give the Continentals their last lead before Beth Rhodey created space for Allie Wheatley to tie it at 6.

More than 12 minutes later, Rhodey dished to Tournament MVP McCausland for what proved to be the game-winner.

"My life is complete now," said an exultant Caulfield. "We're definitely going to enjoy it."

All was not lost for Hamilton and its coach.

"We have it in perspective," said Kloidt. "They'll come around in a few days and feel really proud of each other. I think they're proud of each other right now. We have some tremendous leadership. We have nothing to be ashamed of."

After so many stints as bridesmaids, the Sea Gulls reached the vaunted altar.

"When we turned it over near the end, I had a flashback to last year," said Salisbury head coach Jim Nestor, whose squad lost the title match to Franklin & Marshall in 2009. "It's just a great feeling, not only for the players and how hard they worked all year, but for the alumni too. The kids were happy not just for me, but for the whole program."


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