Salisbury Shuts Down Amherst in Division III Semifinals

GETTYSBURG, Pa. The No. 2 Salisbury lacrosse team is back in the national title game for the third-consecutive year, searching for its third national title in five seasons, after advancing past No. 5 Amherst, 8-4, on Saturday afternoon in the NCAA Division III tournament semifinals at Clark Field.

"It was a great game," head coach Jim Nestor said. "When you look at the stats and see how balanced the game was and going back-and-forth, I just really thought we did a great job creating and finishing our opportunities. It was just a really exciting game."

Salisbury (22-1) started the game huge on the defensive end, allowing the offense to fuel off the early momentum to get on the board first. Winning the opening draw, Amherst (19-3) brought on the first attack of the game. Dropping down the eight-meter fan through an open lane, Lord Jeff Alex Philie lined a shot at the cage, but was turned away on one of many impressive saves for the game by senior goalkeeper Ashton Wheatley.

"My sister (Allie Wheatley) always said if I make the first save that's shot on me, we are golden for the rest of the game," said Wheatley. "It's definitely a mentality thing. If you get that first save, it just pumps you up for the rest of the game."

Changing the direction, Salisbury rushed down to its offensive end and just 50 seconds later blasted the first goal of the game. Senior Shannon Carta carried the ball around the backside of the net, rolling tight along the crease on the left side. Dodging an Amherst defender, the Annapolis, Md., native found a gap in the front of the crease for a high, right finish over Lord Jeff goalkeeper Christy Forrest.

Amherst and Salisbury would trade goals the rest of the way through the first half to give the Sea Gulls a 3-2 lead at the break. After the Lord Jeffs got on the board two minutes following Carta's opening goal, junior Bethany Baer had a notable series to get Salisbury the lead again. On an Amherst possession, Baer with a quick, clean swipe of her stick, connected with Rachel Passarelli's stick to cause the turnover and push the ball the other way. On the other side, junior Kate Haker wrapped around the back of the goal, finding a diving Baer down the eight-meter fan for the swift pass and low finish, giving the Sea Gulls a 2-1 lead.

Following another Amherst goal, the duo of Carta and junior Shelby Nemecek connected for their 22nd goal together this season and first of two for the game to give Salisbury the lead that it wouldn't lose the rest of the day.

At the half, Salisbury edged Amherst in shots, 7-6, while holding even in draw controls and groundballs with three and seven, respectively.

With no scoring in the opening 8:37 of the second half, Haker broke the dry spell with an unassisted finish to give the Sea Gulls a two-goal lead. Rolling tightly around the crease with her back to the defense, the lefty came in low on the front side of the crease for the quick shot past Forrest.

The Jeffs would answer back with a goal seven minutes later, but stifling defense and a sparked offense would put the Sea Gulls on a four-goal run to put the game away. A Carta-Nemecek hookup started the run less than two minutes after the Amherst goal.

Continuing the stretch was Haker and senior Katelyn Blondino. Haker carried the ball to the far right side of the field, waiting for an opening for a teammate to fall into for an opportunity. Blondino curled around the top of the eight-meter fan catching a pass from Haker in the process. Receiving the ball, the senior turned toward goal with an open lane and fired a high, left shot for the 6-3 advantage.

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