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Salisbury women’s lacrosse

Middlebury, Salisbury Advance to NCAA Division III Women’s Lacrosse Final

May 24, 2024
Ray Cox

SALEM, Va. – Two women’s lacrosse big-timers made it back to the NCAA Division III championship game. Two determined hopefuls were left heartbroken on the doorstep Friday.

Middlebury College is looking for its third title in a row Sunday noon at Kerr Stadium after dispatching Franklin & Marshall 13-10. The Diplomats for the second year in a row came one win short at a chance for a third national title to go with the ones in 2007 and 2009. Middlebury was the roadblock last year too prevailing 22-13.The Panthers take a 50-game winning streak into Sunday’s title game.

As for Salisbury (25-0) its championship drought extends all the way to 2021, which is a long time for a program in quest of its fifth championship.  That was also the date of their last national crown. The Gulls have played in 14 semifinals and winning this latest over intrepid William Smith 16-13. The Herons have been to the final five times and have yet to win it.

Both semifinals Friday had some similarities perhaps the most important being the tenacity of all and concerned. Neither of the victors ever trailed; neither of the losers stopped relentless their relentless pursuits.

The Diplomats were within two (5-7) with 8:15 in the first half and at 8-10 in the third quarter. The Herons had their deficit down to one goal (9-10) in the fourth and twice at two down the stretch.

“Something I was really proud of was my teammates; determination to keep working hard and keep fighting for the entire duration of the game … I was happy to see everybody’s effort,” said William Smith two-time All America midfielder Maddie Montgomery, who led her team with four goals to give her a team-leading  84 in 24 games.

Middlebury (23-0) had too much speed and too many weapons for the Dips (19-5), who had won nine of their last 10 coming in. Freshman goalkeeper Elizabeth Savage, a starter since the last game of the regular season, was steady in the cage all afternoon. She stopped 10 of 19 shots a number from point-blank range.

“She’s awesome,” teammate Susan Rowley, I have so much confidence with her back there. Every time there’s a free position I know she’s saving it. She’s really stepped into this role: she hasn’t hesitated in the slightest.”

Neither did Rowley. She netted four goals by played a physical game working her way through contact mostly directly in front of the cage.

Another story was the Panther’s Caroline Adams who was dominant with a whopping 10 draws controlled. Middlebury won that contest 20-8 which added up to a lot of visits to the offensive zone.

What makes the Panthers so strong in the circle was harder to explain.

“I think it’s just practice,” Adams said, “Our draw team puts in a lot of work.”

Another example of the want-to of the Panthers was their 18 ground balls to 12 for the opponent. Haley Hamilton collected four of them.

“Hard-fought game,” Dips coach Mike Faith said. “We played them in March and it really wasn’t close. We had a lot of work to do. I thought we were a different team today.”

Gillian Brennan had a hat trick and five points to lead F&M. The Diplomats continued to given themselves chances by holding onto the ball. They only had 10 turnovers five fewer than the defending champs.