Salisbury Rides Big Early Run to Second Straight WD3 Crown
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"We knew we had to take control of the game. I think we knew we had control of the game the whole time."
-Salisbury's Bethany Baer, who was named Most Outstanding Player. (Scott McCall)
GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Trinity won the game's first draw, but after failing to convert on a three-minute possession, the Bantams hardly touched the ball for 10 minutes.
By the time Trinity regained its offensive composure, Salisbury led 3-0 and had already killed off nearly a quarter of the game.
"We knew we had to take control of the game," Salisbury senior attack and NCAA tournament outstanding player, Bethany Baer said. "I think we knew we had control of the game the whole time."
In the third straight Trinity-Salisbury women's Division III national championship, the Sea Gulls made it back-to-back titles with a 9-3 win Sunday Gettysburg College's Clark Field. While Trinity held its own in the draw circle, that was the extent of the Bantams' control of the game as Salisbury performed minutes-long dissections of their defense.
Kate Haker throttled Salisbury into first-half dominance, scoring on three straight Sea Gulls goals to stretch the defending champions' lead from 2-0 to 5-0 in a span of 10:30.
"We just looked at each other and were so pumped from it," Haker said. "There was nothing holding us back from there."
A pair of left-sided free-position tallies sandwiched a feed-and-finish with Shannon Carta, whose cuts from the perimeter provided a jolt to Salisbury's patient attack.
Salisbury's fast start erased what little concern the Sea Gulls had about Triniting dominating the draw circle. The possessions Salisbury took, it scored on. And the ones it lost, it wrestled back with an unyielding defense.
With goalkeeper Ashton Wheatley backing up Sea Gulls defenders on the few occasions they were beaten, Trinity attackers turned out of dodges time and again.
"We began slow and it just felt like a real uphill battle after that," Trinity head coach Katie Livesay said.
It showed more and more as the game progressed. No team had held Trinity scoreless at halftime all season. Haker's early finishes put Trinity in a hole. But every drawn-out scoring possession by the Sea Gulls forced the Bantams to increasingly chase the game.
"We need to be confident in our defenders in being able to come up with the turnover and just know that when we have the ball it's really special," senior Trinity attack Shea Kusiak said.
And while Trinity managed a muted comeback in the second half, it quickly became a case of not enough, not soon enough. Kathleen Timmons buried a feed from Lindsay Mullaney 32 seconds into the second half and Molly Cox tucked another Bantams goal into the lower-left corner of the net to pull Trinity to within 5-2, just 3:29 into the second half.
But the Salisbury defense quickly restored order. Sea Gulls defender Kieran Kellehrer won one of Salisbury's four draw controls and 90 seconds later, Shelby Nemecek was slapping a pass from Haker into the back of the net. "Our whole attack scored so you can't name one person," Baer said.
Nemecek's goal kickstarted another 4-0 Salisbury run. When it ended with 17:16 to play on a Kusiak goal for Trinity, the Bantams trailed 9-3. With every Wheatley save and every 50-50 call that went against Trinity, Salisbury's grip on the national championship tightened.
"When you get down and your battling the clock, those little things become really big things," Livesay said. "And that really hurt us."
Trinity defender Ashley Stewart picked up her second yellow card with 13:17 to play, depriving the Bantams of one of their best takeaway players. Shea Kusiak picked up a yellow of her own with 1:54 and Trinity down 9-6.
Lindsay Mullaney sticked Baer in the nose with 37 seconds left earning a second yellow and a red card. Baer staggered away from the goal as she suffered through the reinjuring of her already broken nose —it was broken against Franklin & Marshall early this season.
Baer said she didn't remember the play. But 30 seconds of game time later, with the ball in Wheatley's stick, her arms spread to either side, beckoning teammates and opponents alike toward her, Baer was was rushing onto the field with alongside teammates, celebrating Salisbury's second straight national championship.
Said Wheatley: "It doesn't feel real because it was such a flashback."
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