Field hockey wins conference, hosts NCAA playoff game Saturday

The No. 1 Salisbury University field hockey team knew it would be playing in the NCAA tournament this week, by virtue of claiming the program’s 18th Capital Athletic Conference championship on Saturday, but the Sea Gulls were forced to wait to find out where they would be going.

The NCAA released its Division III field hockey bracket on Sunday night, and Salisbury learned that it would host second- and third-round action of the tournament, following a first-round bye. The Sea Gulls will open play in the tournament on Saturday, November 15 at Sea Gull Stadium against either Lynchburg College or Centre College.

Lynchburg will host Centre in the first round, on Wednesday, and will join Salisbury, Wellesley College and either Juniata College or Gwynedd-Mercy University at Sea Gull Stadium for the weekend.

Salisbury heads into the NCAA tournament as the top-ranked team in the nation and riding an eight-game winning streak following Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win against Christopher Newport University in the CAC championship match.

The Sea Gulls faced one of the teams scheduled to play into this weekend’s home event this season, having beaten Lynchburg, 4-1, on the road on Sept. 20. Salisbury is 4-2 all-time against the Hornets.

Salisbury has met Juniata twice, in 2010 and 2011, coming away with wins in both meetings, and the Sea Gulls topped Wellesley, 4-1, last season in the NCAA quarterfinals on their way to the NCAA title game.

Sea Gull Stadium is one of four host sites for second- and third-round games with the surviving team from each bracket advancing to Washington & Lee University for the championship weekend on Nov. 22-23.

In winning their 18th Capital Athletic Conference championship on Saturday night, the Sea Gulls dominated the stat sheet. The team still needed a second-half equalizer to get the game to overtime where sophomore Chandler Littleton struck for her first career goal, and it couldn’t have been bigger, ending the game nearly five minutes into the extra session.

“It’s a great victory,” Head Coach Dawn Chamberlin said. “Any time you can win a conference championship it’s awesome. It was a hard-fought game, we did a lot of good things out there.

“Chandler isn’t a goal scorer for us, we just put her in off the bench and she had fresh legs, I told her to use her speed and get in position to help us out and that’s exactly what she did.”

Salisbury got the first scoring chance of the day, getting a foul in the circle and a penalty corner less than a minute after the opening whistle of the game, but junior Courtney Jantzen’s first shot whistled wide left.

The Sea Gulls would continue to apply early pressure on Christopher Newport goalkeeper Bailey Lien, taking eight of the first nine shots in the game, forcing Lien to make five saves in the first 17 minutes to keep the game scoreless.

It was the Captains who would strike first, getting a deflected goal in the 20th minute. Madison Doss sent a long ball in from the right wing, and Carol Thompson was stationed five yards in front of the Salisbury goal to tip the ball into the upper-left corner of the goal for the 1-0 lead.

Salisbury had the chance to tie the game with just over two minutes left in the first half when senior Mallory Elliott attempted a shot, which was stopped by Lien.

The captain keeper ended up on the ground, covering the ball, and the Sea Gulls were awarded a penalty stroke, but Lien made the stop to preserve the CNU lead.

At halftime, Lien had recorded stops on all 11 of Salisbury’s shots that were on goal. The Sea Gulls held a 17-2 edge in shots and were awarded 14 penalty corners in the first 35 minutes, but could not solve Lien.

Nearly 10 minutes into the second half, Mallory Elliott would tie the game for the Sea Gulls. Senior Summer Washburn sent a long ball in from the left wing, following a Captain foul, toward the left side of the goal. Elliott was waiting, turned and one-timed the equalizer past Lien for her 13th goal of the year.

Each team would record a handful of shots through the remaining 26 minutes of regulation, but could not find the go-ahead goal.

In overtime, it appeared that Washburn might end the contest 90 seconds into the period, ripping a shot from the top of the circle, which missed just to the left.

The Sea Gulls dominated the nearly five minutes of overtime, attempting four shots and getting the game winner from Littleton.

With more open space in the seven-on-seven overtime, the Sea Gulls took advantage as Washburn dribbled the ball through a pair of CNU defenders to the end line on the left side. She sent a pass across the goal’s mouth to the right post were Littleton banged home the game winner.

 “Summer was dribbling the ball up the field and she crossed it and I just happened to be on the post at the right time and I tipped it in,” Littleton said.

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