D-III Women's Rewind: Recapping Salisbury's Road to a Title

PHOTO COURTESY OF NCAA PHOTOS

Salisbury capped a perfect season by claiming the NCAA Division III women’s title in exciting fashion.


Salisbury capped a perfect season by claiming the NCAA Division III women’s title in exciting fashion.

The Sea Gulls (20-0) dominated their semifinal against Denison (12-2), then edged Tufts 14-13 in the final to collect their fourth title in 12 years. Tufts (10-1) had beaten St. John Fisher (18-2) in the other semifinal to advance.

Here are some of the notable storylines from championship weekend.

BEST GAME

The championship game was just what one would expect in a college final, especially with Salisbury and Tufts entering undefeated and recognized among the top four teams in the most recent Nike / USA Lacrosse Division III rankings going into the tournament.

After a back-and-forth first half ended in a 6-6 tie, the second half was just as much a tug-of-war — but Salisbury ultimately prevailed 14-13.

Tufts cut a three-goal deficit down to one, making it 9-8 with 21:18 left; however, Salisbury gained some momentum scoring five of the next seven goals to go up 14-10 with 6:24 remaining. The Jumbos responded once again with three unanswered goals for the final tally with 4:04 left but couldn’t find the equalizer, as Salisbury’s defense locked things down to secure the title. Claire Wright had a free-position shot hit the post with 3:29 left and that was the Jumbos’ final shot of the game.

Salisbury had five multi-goal scorers for the game but none with more than two tallies, while Catherine Lawliss (four goals, two assists) and Emily Games (three goals, one assist) led Tufts. Molly Laliberty finished with a game-high nine saves for the Jumbos.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Back when the season began, it was unclear if Tufts was even going to be able to play. On Saturday, the Jumbos played in their second straight NCAA semifinal and advanced to their first-ever championship game.

While most teams faced some degree of uncertainty this year with COVID restrictions and delays finalizing schedules, the New England Small College Athletic Conference’s hesitation lingered especially long. As other college teams began play in late February, the NESCAC was still awaiting a decision on whether its schools would have a season. Finally, on March 9, the conference announced a decision to move forward with the spring season with the stipulation that at least six members needed to be able to play an abbreviated regional schedule.

Weeks later, it was still unclear who would play, but Tufts was one of seven NESCAC teams that was able to field a team. The Jumbos began play April 3 and finished 5-0 in the regular season before winning the conference championship and continuing its run through the NCAA tournament.

Their last three games were decided by a combined four goals. They edged TCNJ 11-10 in the Elite 8 and topped St. John Fisher 12-10 in the semifinal Saturday before falling to Salisbury.







BEST PERFORMANCE

Salisbury’s Alexis Strobel finished with an impressive seven assists in a 20-10 win against Denison in the semifinals, helping the Sea Gulls’ pull away early in the second half.

After Salisbury took an 8-4 lead into halftime, Strobel assisted two of the first three goals in the second half, and the Sea Gulls’ advantage never dropped below a four-goal margin. All seven of her assists came within the team’s first 11 goals.

Strobel, the Coast-to-Coast Offensive Player of the Year, had one goal and one assist in a balanced effort for the Sea Gulls in the championship win over Tufts.

BY THE NUMBERS

1

Denison has now made one Final Four appearance, and Tufts has now played in one championship game. Denison advanced to the semifinals on a nice run after claiming a fifth-straight North Coast Athletic Conference Championship while extending a conference winning streak to 43 straight games. Tufts made the Final Four last year but lost in the semifinals.

2

Tufts limited St. John Fisher leading scorers Brittany Halpin, Alyssa Sproule and Sydney DeGirolamo to two goals each in a two-goal margin of victory in the semifinals. Madison Lehan and Lindsay Erickson both caused two turnovers, as the Jumbos held the Cardinals to 10 goals, 4.5 below their season average.

15

In the final against Tufts, Salisbury took advantage of 15 turnovers — 10 caused — to overcome an 18-11 disadvantage on draw controls that otherwise would have enabled the Jumbos to dominate possession. The Sea Gulls also had 15 ground balls, compared to just three for Tufts.

5

DeGiralamo finished with five points in the semifinal loss to Tufts, with her second of two goals making it an 11-10 game with 6:40 left. Tufts added an insurance goal with around five minutes remaining.

3

Denison had two players with hat tricks against Salisbury, as Liza Farnham (three goals, one assist) and Casey McTague (three goals) led the attack. Only three of the Cardinals’ goals were assisted.

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