ROANOKE, Va. — Senior Shannon Keeler tied a career-high with 15 saves and seventh-ranked Gettysburg halted No. 10 Trinity (Conn.) College's bid for a sixth straight championship game appearance with an 8-4 victory in the semifinals of the NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse Championship Saturday at Kerr Stadium on the campus of Roanoke College.
Gettysburg (20-3) ran off the first five goals of the second half to reach its third national title game. The Bullets draw top-ranked The College of New Jersey (19-1), which defeated Washington & Lee University (19-2) 5-4 in double overtime.
"It was a battle and we enjoyed every minute of it," said head coach Carol Cantele. "We wanted to stay in the now, and it was a game of people having to stay completely in the now and focusing on every single possession."
Keeler set the tone with 12 of her saves in the opening half as Trinity (17-5) managed just one goal heading into the break. Senior Caroline Jaeger and juniors Katie Willis and Maggie McClain each posted a pair of goals, while junior Katie Landry picked up one goal and three assists.
Returning to the national semifinals for the first time since winning the national title in 2011, Gettysburg continued its defensive dominance. The Bullets held the Bantams off the scoreboard for 23 minutes to start the game with Keeler stone-walling the first nine attempts on goal.
Following a save by Keeler, Gettysburg reached the scoring column as Jaeger picked up a free-position attempt and flung a shot into the back of the cage at 19:15. The senior wasn't done, receiving a pass from Landry and scoring again less than two minutes later.
"Seeing how hard the defense was playing and getting the ball back for us on the other end really gets our attack pumped up," Jaeger said. "It's definitely a strong point for us to score that first goal."
Allie Barrett put the Bantams on the board with 6:59 to go in the first half. Looking for the equalizer heading into the break, Clare Lyne was stopped twice by Keeler in the final 1:12 to maintain the 2-1 score.
The first eight minutes of the second half belonged to the Orange and Blue. After a stop by Keeler, the Bullets came down the field and Landry scored to pad the lead. It was the start of a five-goal run which saw four different players score. Willis scored her second tally to push the margin to 7-1 with 22:17 to play.
"Keeping the ball moving fast and keeping players moving off ball was what we knew was going to break the defense and we were able to execute that today," Landry noted.
Trinity cut the deficit to four with back-to-back goals, but Gettysburg's defense held firm, forcing three turnovers and two shots off goal over the next nine minutes. McClain tallied her second goal to make it 8-3 with 4:31 left.
Keeler provided the icing on the cake with her final save on a shot by Grace O'Donnell with 3:37 remaining. Gettysburg's precision passing took care of the rest, running out the remaining time.
Keeler tied her personal high for saves set against Franklin & Marshall College in 2014.
BRACKET: 2017 interactive NCAA tournament bracket
"I think she's been very focused on staying in the now," Cantele said about her senior goalie. "She was very poised, stayed at home, took away some decent shots, and our defense forced some shots she thrives on."
Senior Emma Christie posted a goal and an assist. Landry picked up four ground balls, a caused turnover and a draw control, while junior defender Cassie Smith scooped up four ground balls. Senior Macauley Mikes added two ground balls and a caused turnover in her 85th career game, which broke the program's all-time record.
Gettysburg heads to its third national title game appearance. The Bullets lost to TCNJ 10-4 in 2006 and beat Bowdoin College 16-5 in 2011. The Orange and Blue also draw a rematch with the Lions, who won their regular-season meeting 7-6 at Clark Field on March 30. TCNJ leads the all-time series with Gettysburg 16-5. Each of the last five games has been decided by one goal.
"[Our players] been preparing for this moment since Day 1," Cantele said. "While it was not at the front of their mind, it was always in the back of their mind. Today was their moment to put it in the front. They played with excitement, but they also played with composed demeanor. That's a difficult balance. You can't always achieve it, but today they definitely had that energy and that composure."