The second-seeded Salisbury women's lacrosse team overcame its first second-half deficit of the season as Shelby Nemecek (Liberty) broke a 7-all tie with just over eight minutes to play in an 8-7 victory over third-seeded Middlebury (18-3) in the NCAA Division III semifinals Saturday at Stevenson.
The win sends the Sea Gulls to their sixth national championship appearance in program history, where they will face Trinity (Conn.) College, an 8-6 winner over SUNY-Cortland, today at noon.
Today's game will be a rematch of last year's national championship game, which the Bantams won, 8-7.
"After losing a national championship, anytime you're doing anything, in the back of your head you are right back there," Salisbury senior Lauren Feusahrens said after Saturday's win. "I think that we knew our goal and I think we did a really good job this year taking it one game at a time, respecting every opponent and not overlooking anyone. We didn't rely on talent, we relied on heart."
Trailing 5-3, the Sea Gulls (22-0) rallied to tie the game over the first 5:10 of the second half and took their first lead of the second half with 21:29 left.
Kate Haker (Westminster) scored the first Salisbury goal of the second half, taking a feed from Katie Bollhorst (St. Mary's) across the crease. Bollhorst then hit Feusahrens in front of the cage for the equalizer, tying the game at 5.
"I think at that point we needed momentum," said Bollhorst, who finished with five assists on the day to lead all players with five points. "Coming out we knew that our defense was doing their job the entire first half. And we knew if we were going to come out on top, we needed to do our part, and I think that started with the draw controls. We needed to finish the opportunities Middlebury gave us and I think we did that."
Middlebury won eight of nine draw controls in the first half, but Salisbury was able to turn the tides in the second, claiming five of eight.
Maggie Roundy (Urbana) gave the Sea Gulls a 6-5 lead moments after Feusahrens' goal, off another Bollhorst assist. Roundy found space in front of Middlebury keeper Alyssa Polomba, took the feed from Bollhorst, made one fake and planted the go-ahead goal in the top-left corner.
Just over three minutes later, Margaret Souther cut down the middle, held off a Salisbury defender and slipped the tying goal under Salisbury goalkeeper Ashton Wheatley, tying the game at 6 with 18 minutes left.
Feusahrens came down the left wing to give Salisbury a 7-6 lead. Middlebury's Liza Herzog then scored off a rebound to tie the game at 7 with 9:09 left.