GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Having experienced the haunting sense of disappointment that accompanied consecutive state-championship game losses in their final two seasons as Westminster High School, Sunday afternoon provided an awfully sweet sense of redemption for both Bethany Baer and Kate Haker.
Although history repeated itself their freshmen seasons at Salisbury, that could not have been further from their thoughts as the final seconds counted down. Soon after the final horn sounded, both were engulfed in a sea of maroon and gold in the corner of Gettysburg’s Clark Field, deliriously celebrating a second consecutive NCAA Division III Women’s Lacrosse Championship title victory after the second-ranked Sea Gulls finalized a 9-6 triumph against No. 3 Trinity (Conn.).
How could this ever get old?
“I think in high school it was just a lot harder for us. [Our team] never clicked in high school,” Baer explained. “I think when we got here we had more of a bond, like sisters. Everyone here wanted a national championship. This is just a different team, a different atmosphere.”
Haker added: “We won last year and it was definitely something that overstepped the whole losing two state championships. You can’t compare the two; a national championship is just so much better. And winning two just exceeds it that much more.”
Before turning their focus toward a three-peat -- only TCNJ has hoisted the Walnut and Bronze in more than back-to-back years among Division III women’s lacrosse programs, reigning from 1993-96 -- it only seems appropriate to recognize how Bear and Haker helped the Sea Gulls celebrate again.
While Salisbury (23-1) posted only the fifth first-half shutout in championship-game history as Baer and all-everything senior goalie Ashton Wheatley sparked a stifling defensive showing, Haker scored her second hat trick in as many games. Two of her tallies came off free position shots, while another came off a feed from senior Shannon Carta, staking the Sea Gulls to a 5-0 lead through 35 minutes.
It was an almost 180-degree turn from 2012, the last time Salisbury’s juniors lost a championship game, when Trinity led 4-0 at intermission before holding on for an 8-7 victory.
“At the beginning of the game, we told ourselves that we won the championship [last year] but we’re a new team [this year],” Haker said. “Trinity was coming out with that regret factor, but we we’re also dwelling on 2012 when we lost to them.”
Before Trinity (19-3) staged a too-little, too-late rally that produced the final score, Baer sewed up Most Outstanding Player honors with a pair of goals, her 47th and 48th of the season, to ensure that the Sea Gulls would repeat as national champions.
Of course, this is the perfect ending for any senior’s career. Wheatley recalled it being just like 2013, backpedaling toward her goal with the ball in her wicket when her brother hopped the fence to join the Salisbury celebration.
“What better way to leave your senior year than with back-to-back national championships and the Salisbury legacy that’s so important to all of us,” Wheatley said.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Carta added. “Leaving a legacy is what we’ve been trying to do all season and we’ve done that.”
And to think: Baer and Haker have a chance to add another title to that legacy next May.
Not bad for not having experienced this during their days at Westminster High School.