SALISBURY, Md. – The nation is down to one unbeaten team, as the No. 2 Salisbury University women's lacrosse team eliminated Augustana (Ill.) College by a blistering score of 16-3 in a regional semifinal matchup in the NCAA Division III tournament Saturday afternoon at Sea Gull Stadium.
The Vikings entered Saturday's game as the top team in the country in scoring offense (18.53), points scored (371) and scoring margin (12.16), but that didn't intimidate the Salisbury defense, only allowing three goals by the Augustana charge. Causing nine turnovers of the Vikings' 17 for the game, the Gulls backline limited Augustana to just 10 clears on 14 attempts.
The offense for Salisbury (20-1) put on quite a show on its side of the field, starting the game with a 14-goal run. In a stretch led by junior attackers Shelby Nemecek and Kate Haker, with four goals and an assist apiece, the Sea Gulls kept the Vikings off the board for nearly 37 minutes of play.
Kicking off the scoring for SU just 1:11 into the game was senior Shannon Carta, dodging the defense on a left-side curl around the crease for a quick rip past Viking goalkeeper Jenna Hoffman.
The Augustana defense would hold off Salisbury's charge for an eight-minute span before junior Bethany Baer would tack on her first goal of three for the game, on a curl around the crease for an unassisted finish with 20:26 remaining in the half.
The Sea Gulls kept the momentum for the remainder of the half, putting away 10 more goals before the break. Nemecek's four led the first-half scorers, while Baer (two), juniors Haker (two) and Kara O'Rourke, and sophomores Megan Wallenhorst and Katelin Talbert all contributed to the 12-0 lead taken into the break.
At the half, the Sea Gulls outshot the Vikings, 19-5, while also scooping more groundballs, 11-4. Augustana won the draw control battle through the first 30 minutes, winning 7-of-13.
Starting the second half on the right foot was Nemecek and Haker on the fastest restart Salisbury has seen this season. Nemecek lined up in the center of the field for the draw control, flipping the ball up for a clean win. Bringing the ball down on the right side of the field, the Marriotsville, Md., native threw the ball up the field to a wide-open Haker. The junior pulled in the ball, ran into the center of the eight-meter fan, and placed a high-left finish past Hoffman, just 11 seconds into the period.
Haker would follow up less than a minute later with her final goal of the game, cutting across the right side of the fan and catching a pass from Nemecek for the quick turn and rip.
The Vikings got on the board with 23:16 remaining in the game, before Baer answered with an unassisted finish to extend the lead to 15-1. Augustana would add two more goals before the end of the game, but the final touch was put on by sophomore Melissa Webster off a free-position goal with 15 seconds remaining.
In an offensive surge that saw eight Sea Gull contributors, Salisbury totaled 25 shots, 22 on goal. Almost going perfect on clear attempts, 17-of-18, the Sea Gulls edged the Vikings in draw controls, 11-10.
The defense, led by senior Meghan Toomey and junior Dominique DiPino, only allowed 12 shots by Augustana for the game, nine on target. Toomey and DiPino tied for a game high in groundballs with three each, as Salisbury picked up 17 loose balls to the Vikings' 10.
Senior goalkeeper Ashton Wheatley played a productive 48:06, making four saves and only allowing one into the net to claim the victory in the cage. With her four stops, Wheatley now sits three saves away from hitting another milestone, 400 in a career. Coming out of the crease continues to be comfortable territory for the Cambridge, Md., native, having game highs in groundballs and caused turnovers with three and two, respectively.
Junior Alyssa Harmke protected the net for the remaining 11:54, making two saves on four shots.
With the win, the Sea Gulls advance to the regional finals set for Sunday, May 18, at Sea Gull Stadium. Salisbury will have a rematch of the regular-season matchup at home against Franklin & Marshall College, which advanced after defeating the State University of New York at Geneseo, 9-8, Saturday afternoon. First draw is set for 1 p.m.