NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – The No. 6 Salisbury University field hockey team dropped a heartbreaker in double-overtime of the Capital Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday night, falling at No. 5 Christopher Newport University, 2-1.
The Sea Gulls got the scoring started early when Lexi Butler sent a ball from the top of the circle toward the right post and senior Natalie Wilkinson was waiting on the doorstep, slamming the try home for a 1-0 Salisbury lead just six minutes into the game.
The one-goal advantage stood throughout the opening half as senior goalkeeper Tressie Windsor made five saves in the first 35 minutes and the Salisbury defense, paced by sophomores Jillian Hughes, Arielle Johnston, and Sarah Jackson, held off a pair of penalty corners by the hosts.
Salisbury attempted four shots in the first half, including a drive by freshman Camryn Dennis off a penalty corner with five minutes left in the period. Dennis scored the game winner in the CAC first round off a penalty corner, but this try was turned away by Christopher Newport keeper Stephanie McKinney.
The Captains drew even just after the start of the second half, when Courtney Fiest sent a long ball from the left wing just in front of the CNU bench through the defense and toward the right post. One quick touch from Jackie Kotoriy got the ball to the back of the cage for the equalizer.
After an early push from the Captains, which saw the ball in their offensive half for much of the first three minutes, Salisbury turned the tides, pressuring on the other end, including three penalty corners, over the next seven minutes, but could not find the go-ahead goal.
The Captains' best chance the remainder of regulation came in the 56th minute. A long ball came into the circle and Windsor miss hit here clearing effort. Fiest was at the edge of the circle, where she tried to flick a shot past Windsor before she could get back in position, but the Delmar, Maryland native was able to get her right pad out to keep the ball away from the cage.
The 1-1 tie held through regulation, and as each of the previous two CAC championship meetings between these programs had, the 2017 title tilt would head to overtime. Unlike the previous championship meetings, in 2013 and 2014, the Captains would pick up the win.
Neither team scored in the first overtime, though Christopher Newport nearly ended it with no time remaining the first extra period, getting a pair of penalty corners. But Hughes was able to come up with a defensive save at the right post on each try, first stopping Rachael Allshouse's shot and next turning away a try from Courtnie Greene and each time sending the ball out of danger.
The second overtime seemed destined for the same result, but with less than 10 minutes left before a shootout, Greene took a feed on the left side, and made a cutback move to the middle, getting by her defender and firing a shot into the right side of the cage for the game winner.
Windsor made nine saves for Salisbury in the contest while McKinney turned away eight tries from the Sea Gulls and each team finished with two defensive saves.
With the victory, the Captains claim the CAC's automatic bid into the 2017 NCAA Division III Field Hockey Tournament, which begins next week. The Sea Gulls, who entered the day ranked second in the South Region, now await the announcement of the tournament bracket late Sunday night to see if they have earned an at-large bid.