May 19, 2012

Salisbury to Meet Trinity for D-III Women's Championship

by Mark Macyk | | Live Blog Replay

Shea Kusiak scored the eventual game winner for Trinity in its 7-5 semifinal win over Cortland on Saturday.
© Jim O'Connor

MONTCLAIR, N.J. -- Salisbury took down Middlebury, 15-7, to reach its fifth NCAA Division III women's lacrosse championship on Saturday. If the Sea Gulls want to win their second title in three years on Sunday, they'll have to get past a team coached by a former Middlebury player.

Kate Livesay's NESCAC-champion Trinity squad edged Cortland, 7-5, in the nightcap at Montclair State to advance to its first final in program history.

Livesay played for Middlebury coach Missy Foote and her mentor may have some insight to offer in taking down a Salisbury team that looked unbeatable at times on Saturday.

"It's really fun for me because [Livesay] is a really treasured colleague," Foote said. "We talk about ways to beat other teams. In fact, as I was walking in I told her if she wins to call me tonight because I have some thoughts to give."

Livesay won a national title under Foote while playing at Middlebury. When asked how much she wants one for her current Trinity team she responded: "More than anything."

Trinity Gets In the Zone Against Cortland

If Trinity's defense plays as well as it did against Cortland on Saturday, the dream could become a reality. The Bantams (20-1) held Cortland (20-2) to its lowest scoring output all season in the two-goal win.

Liz Bruno scored just over one minute into the game to open the scoring for Trinity and the Bantams never trailed. Trinity's stifling zone defense kept Cortland from getting any easy shots.

The Bantams outshot Cortland 20-17. Each team managed only five shots on goal.

"Playing a zone causes a team to do something different with their offensive set," Livesay said. "It really forces them to play as a team and manufacture goals a little bit differently than they are maybe used to. We really felt like the zone has been the best way to pressure the ball behind and force rushed shots."

Bruno led all players with three goals and one assist and Shea Kusiak added three goals for Trinity. Maria Di Fato led Cortland with one goal and one assist.

Bruno carried the scoring load early, but Kusiak took over in the second half, scoring the eventual game-winner to put Trinity ahead, 6-4, with 6:17 remaining and adding a crucial insurance goal to make it 7-5 with 3:19 remaining.

After the game Kusiak laughed as she struggled to find the words to sum up her success. Assistant coach Anne Parmenter provided some assistance.

"Her words might not come out in a press conference but she says it on the field by the way that she plays," Parmenter said. "We call her 'Playoff Shea' for a reason. She might be quiet now, but it was a clincher for us."

Cortland star Lindsay Abbott was held to one goal. That goal did put her in sole possession of Division III's all-time scoring list.

"It hasn't come out yet but she'll be a four-time All-American," Cortland coach Kathy Taylor said. "She broke all the [program] records. You know, the one thing she didn't get is a national championship. She had hoped that would happen."

Cortland defender Jamie Flood received Division III's Elite 89 award, given to the athlete participating in the semifinals with the highest grade point average, on Thursday. Flood, a kinesiology major, has a 3.84 GPA.

"It was a special weekend," said Cortland sophomore defender Jessica Lavelle. "A lot of people can't say they've been to the final four in their first two years. We had so much fun doing everything as a team. We were obviously hoping to have even more fun tomorrow. But stuff happens. We just have to move on. Hopefully next year.'"

Sea Gulls Soar Once More After Slow Start

Lauren Feusahrens led all scorers with five goals and three assists to help advance Salisbury to Sunday's national title game.
© Jim O'Connor

In what is becoming a trend, Salisbury fell behind before rallying to an easy victory over Middlebury.

"We kind of have a horrible habit of giving teams a little lead in the beginning but we've come back so many times that we stay calm," said junior attack Katie Bollhorst. "We know how to come back because we like to dig ourselves a little hole."

Middlebury (15-5) led, 2-0, after Elizabeth Garry and Emma Kramer each scored on goals assisted by Liza Herzog in the game's first minute. Amanda Holsclaw and Lauren Feusahrens scored back-to-back goals to tie it up with 21:57 remaining and Salisbury (22-0) never trailed again. The Sea Gulls took the lead for good, 5-4, when Kara Koolage scored an unassisted goal.

Feusahrens led all players with five goals and three assists, Allie Wheatley had five goals and one assist, Bethany Baer had two goals and one assist and Bollhorst had one goal and three assists. Junior goalie Ashton Wheatley made four saves.

The key for Salisbury was its athleticism. The Sea Gulls pressed often and kept Middlebury's transition game in check. The Panthers cleared just 11 of 16 attempts.

"The thing maybe I was most surprised about was their pressure," Foote said. "We love to run-and-gun and we needed to be a little more patient on that. I would do that differently."

The 15 goals were the most allowed all season by Middlebury (15-5). Senior defender Lucy Jackson said Salisbury definitely plays a different style than the NESCAC teams.

"They're a team where the second they have the ball they're looking toward the goal to shoot," Jackson said. "They fed all the time. That's what we really looked for. I don't know if that's a 'southern' team thing, but it's a Salisbury thing."

Salisbury's athleticism and discipline was evident while protecting the lead late in the second half, when the Sea Gulls defense was able to keep the ball in its zone until a long bomb down field to Feusahrens for an easy goal that allowed Salisbury to double up on Middlebury, 14-7.

Garry led Middlebury with three goals, Michaela Colbert had two goals and Herzog had two assists. Goalie Lily Nguyen made seven saves.

Now Salisbury turns its attention to Sunday's championship game. Many of Salisbury's players are used to the pressure, since the Sea Gulls won the championship in 2010.

Said Allie Wheatley: "Tonight I think we just need to relax and know we have come this far through the region. Each and every person is going to be out there for every one of the other 28 players out there. We just have to be confident in the person next to us. We'll be able to relax and be focused."

Not as simple as it sounds.

"[Relaxing] is not easy at all," Wheatley said. "But we know what to do. We just know the 28 people next to us are incredible players and we have the most faith in each and every one."

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