OWINGS MILLS, Md. -– When Salisbury goalkeeper Ashton Wheatley is in that magical place known as “the zone,” it’s a feeling that’s hard for her to describe.

Does the ball seem somehow bigger? Slower, maybe?

Whatever the case might be, Wheatley was most definitely in a place where only elite athletes can go during Salisbury’s 12-5 win against Trinity (Conn.) on Sunday. The victory gave Salisbury its second NCAA Division III women’s lacrosse national championship in the past four seasons.

“The ball’s like a rocket, honestly,” she admitted. “I’m a very mental player, and what I try to do when it’s on offense is think about the shots. If I just saved them, I think about those again and what I did right.

“If I didn’t save them, instead of focusing on what I did wrong, I focus how I can save the same shot. I really think that gets my mind right. It helps me focus on getting to the ball, so the next time that shot comes, I’m there.”

She had nine saves against Trinity, and a whopping 12 in Saturday’s semifinal game against Middlebury. For her efforts, Wheatley was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.

Best of all for Salisbury, Wheatley is just a sophomore this year. As a freshman last season, she was named goalie of the year by both Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association and Synapse Sports. She was also on the IWLCA’s All-American first team.

She’ll be back for more next year.

Ten minutes into the second half, Wheatley was hammered with a solid shot in goal. She spent the next few moments trying to walk it off, and with 19:54 remaining in the game, Trinity scored its final goal of the game.

Where was she hit? That’s a good question, but one that she would answer only with a grin.

“It didn’t feel too good, honestly,” Wheatley said. “I’m used to that. I’m used to getting the hardest shots taken on me. I mean, I get ‘em in pre-game warmups. It took me a little bit [to recover], but I got tough skin. I’m always alright.”

Having Wheatley on the team has made the entire Sea Gull roster better, added teammate Katie Bollhorst.

“I think I have been successful the past couple of years because I’m shooting against the best goaltender in the country every day,” Bollhorst said. “Every day, you know that when you make a shot against Ashton, it’s going in against anyone.

“You can fake her five times high, shoot the ball low and her foot comes out of the air and stops it. She’s an amazing goalkeeper and an amazing athlete. She’s helped me develop my game so much in the last couple of years.”