GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- With the finality and sadness came perspective. This was the last time both Shea Kusiak and Lyndsey Shepard would speak at a post-game press conference, mere minutes after Trinity (Conn.) endured a 9-6 loss to Salisbury in the final game of their collegiate careers Sunday in the NCAA Division III Women’s Lacrosse Championship title game.
Kusiak paused a few times while explaining her experience at Trinity, a four-year thrill ride featuring a 2012 national championship and second-place finishes the past two seasons.
Kusiak started to say more, then stopped, prompting coach Kate Livesay to include Shephard, her senior All-American defender who had just entered the post-game press conference but quickly continued her teammate’s thoughts.
“It’s been the greatest experience I can ask for, being a student-athlete at Trinity,” Shephard said, fighting back emotion. “It’s every player’s dream to make it this far and play on this day. Even though it didn’t go our way [Sunday], I couldn’t ask for a better team to make it this far with.”
To provide additional perspective, Kusiak and Shephard helped the Bantams reach the final day of the NCAA Division III women’s lacrosse season each of the past three years. They are among only five teams that have accomplished as much since the tournament field expanded beyond eight squads in 1998.
Perhaps the biggest problem was that they ran into another of those teams Sunday. After snuffing out a couple of early chances, Salisbury secured a 5-0 halftime lead as Trinity looked out of sorts against the program it split the previous two title games against.
“I thought we got off to a really slow start so that really effected the direction of the game,” Livesay said. “We were sort of tight, uncharacteristically tight, and our offensive opportunities early were not great. Our defense, our timing was a little off, and they took full advantage.
“We began slow and it just became an uphill battle after that.”
Trinity’s two senior stars did make things relatively interesting across the final 17 minutes. Kusiak scored twice, while Shepherd helped stymie an otherwise efficient Salisbury offensive attack. When Kusiak scored with 9:12 left, there was brief hope for one of the biggest championship-game rallies ever.
However, the Bantams did not score again until just two minutes remaining, leaving Livesay to lament the loss of her top attacker and her top defender shortly after her team lost in the final game of the Division III season for the second consecutive year.
“Both of these guys have been four-year starters,” Livesay said, looking toward Kubiak and then toward Shepherd. “They’ve had a really high impact for four years. They’ve been in a lot of games and won a lot of games. I couldn’t be more proud to sit in the middle of these two.”