Field Hockey Edged by Salisbury in NCAA Quarterfinals

Field Hockey Edged by Salisbury in NCAA Quarterfinals

SALISBURY, Md. – The Ursinus College field hockey team gave No. 2 Salisbury a battle for 70 minutes in Saturday's NCAA quarterfinal, but the Bears saw their season come to an end following a 1-0 defeat at Sea Gull Stadium.

Arielle Johnston netted the game's lone goal in the 45th minute as Salisbury (18-1) extended its winning streak to 14 games and advanced to the Final Four, where it will take on 3rd-ranked Tufts on Saturday at William Smith. The Jumbos edged Skidmore, 1-0, on Sunday.

The hard-fought loss marked the end of the careers of seniors Ann Kopera, Colleen Leahy, Amber Steigerwalt, Aliki Torrence, and Rachel Zane. The quintet helped guide the Bears to four Centennial Conference championships, a Final Four appearance, and 68 victories in their four years with the program.

Ursinus (17-5), which had its seven-game winning streak snapped, went down swinging against a Salisbury squad that has dominated all comers. The Sea Gulls have not allowed a goal in 455 minutes of game time and have outscored opponents 83-10, their only loss a 3-2 thriller against Messiah more than two months ago. Salisbury has trailed for all of 90 seconds total this season and stretched its home winning streak to 23 games; the Sea Gulls are a robust 177-9 at Sea Gull Stadium since 2000.

But Salisbury had to work hard just to unlock the Bears' vaunted defense once. Ursinus became the first team all season to hold the Sea Gulls under two goals, and Salisbury had only been limited to two in its lone loss to Messiah. With Torrence, Kopera, Zane, junior Emma Frees, and sophomore Bridget Sherry and Mikayla Jordan anchoring the back line, the Sea Gulls only found the back of the cage one time. Unfortunately for the Bears, that was enough for Salisbury's defense, which came in second in Division III in goals-against average.

The Sea Gulls, five times a national champion, controlled play for much of the first half, attempting seven shots and ten penalty corners before Ursinus earned its first corner opportunity with just over three minutes remaining in the frame. A second insert led to the Bears' only shot of the half, a blast from the left side of the circle by junior Brooke Overly that Salisbury keeper Tressie Windsor booted away to send the teams into the halftime break locked in a scoreless draw.

Salisbury finally broke through the Bears' vice grip about ten minutes into the second half, taking advantage of their 11th corner. Natalie Wilkinson inserted to Johnston, who blasted a bouncing shot into the left side of the cage to give the Sea Gulls a lead with 25:26 to play and extend Salisbury's streak of scoring first in every game this season.

Johnston and Wilkinson nearly connected again with 17 minutes remaining. Wilkinson was all alone at the left post after another corner, but she was unable to connect on the return pass from Johnston as the Bears dodged a potential back-breaking goal. Sophomore goalie Jules Singer came up with a huge save a few minutes later, coming out to dive on a shot by Becca Rinaca, who had gotten in one-on-one in front of the cage.

Desperate for an equalizer, the Bears refused to go quietly. Ursinus earned three consecutive corners with about six minutes left, but failed to get off a shot. The drama reached a crescendo inside the final 30 seconds, when the Bears grabbed one final corner chance. Overly rocketed a shot toward the cage, but Windsor again moved out to make another kick save and send the Sea Gulls on to the Final Four.

Overly registered both shots for Ursinus. Johnston and Annah Brittingham took four each for Salisbury, which led 11-2 in shots and 14-6 in corners. Windsor made two saves, and Singer finished with three.