SALISBURY, Md. -- Salisbury is headed back to championship weekend for the third consecutive year after downing No. 7 Franklin & Marshall 11-6 in a regional final match of the NCAA Division III tournament at Sea Gull Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Sea Gulls (21-1) met up with the Diplomats (17-6) in the regional finals last season, in which Salisbury advanced to the semifinals with an 8-6 victory. The rematch Sunday proved no different. In a game that communication and possession played key, SU blasted home four consecutive second-half goals to put the game away.
Taking a 5-2 lead into the half, Salisbury started up the final 30 minutes fairly slow, giving up two F&M goals in the opening eight minutes. After an Emily Everdell free-position finish, Caroline Krohn tacked on another three minutes later to draw within one of the Sea Gulls 5-4. Less than two minutes later, it was junior Bethany Baer and sophomore Samantha Duranti who halted any Diplomat momentum and sparked a four-goal run.
Following a foul that drew the play dead in the eight-meter fan, Duranti was awarded a free-position attempt. A sophomore, with a keen eye on her surroundings, Duranti faked the shot and swiftly passed a quick liner to Baer who was flanking in on the right side of the crease. Wide open, she caught the ball and ripped it past Diplomat goalkeeper Kelsey Hoffman.
Baer would team up with classmate Kate Haker two minutes later, curling around the backside of the net and connecting with Haker on a diving cut through the fan. Senior Shannon Carta and Baer finished off the run with two unassisted goals to extend the lead to 9-4 in the closing 14 minutes.
Two Franklin & Marshall finishes brought the Diplomats back within three, but back-to-back goals by Carta and senior Katelyn Blondino, along with stellar defense and maintaining possession in the final minutes sealed the victory for the Sea Gulls.
The first half started up in Salisbury's favor, scoring three consecutive goals and making three incredible saves by senior goalkeeper Ashton Wheatley. Kicking off the scoring for the Gulls was Blondino off a pass from the top of the fan by Haker. After a save and a caused turnover by Wheatley, Carta tacked on number two for Salisbury on a free-position attempt.
Back-to-back saves by the senior goalkeeper following Carta's goal would keep the Diplomats off the board, while notching another milestone in her career with 400 saves. Duranti capped off the run with another free-position finish for the Gulls to start the game up, 3-0.
F&M put in its first goal of the game with 18:23 remaining in the first half, before junior Shelby Nemecek and Carta answered with two in a row to extend the lead to four 5-1.
Logging its 41st consecutive victory at Sea Gull Stadium, Salisbury moves its series record against the Diplomats to 12-4. For the game, the Gulls outshot F&M 23-16 as Salisbury put 17 on goal. The offense, led by Carta and Baer, saw seven Gull contributors. Carta recorded five points for the game off four goals and an assist, while Baer found the back of the net on two and added two helpers.
Almost posting a perfect game on clear attempts going 14-for-15, Salisbury won the draw control battle, winning 12 of 19. Baer tallied a game-high five wins, while junior Laura Maskell came in a close second with four.
The defense, led by senior Meghan Toomey and sophomore Allison Toomey, caused six turnovers of the Diplomats' 12. The Toomey sisters both forced a turnover and scooped two groundballs for the game.
Wheatley recorded her 20th victory of the season while protecting the cage for the full 60 minutes, making eight saves, causing a turnover and sweeping up two groundballs.
With the victory, the women advance to the national semifinals where they will matchup with No. 5 Amherst, which beat No. 4 TCNJ on Sunday afternoon 8-5. Also advancing to the semfinals in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, are the top-ranked Cortland State and No. 3 Trinity (Conn.). Salisbury will take on the Lord Jeffs in the second game of the national semifinals at 4 p.m. ET May 24.