SU field hockey falls in semi-final round

The No. 1 Salisbury University field hockey team saw the 2014 season come to a close on Saturday in the national semifinal round, falling to No. 3 Bowdoin College, 2-1.

The Polar Bears (19-2) outshot the Sea Gulls 19-6 in the contest, taking the early lead before Salisbury would cut the deficit in half.

After Salisbury (19-2) held the ball in its offensive end over the first few minutes, failing to come away with a shot attempt, Bowdoin went on the offensive, putting together five shots, and getting a penalty-corner try, in a five and a half minute span. Salisbury senior goalkeeper Rachel Clewer turned away the first offering, while others were blocked, but Rachel Kennedy’s shot just under 11 minutes into the game got through for the 1-0 lead. The goal was the 32nd of the season for Kennedy, the nation’s leading scorer.

Salisbury came back five minutes later to take its first chances at Bowdoin goalkeeper Hannah Gartner. Off a penalty corner, in the 17th minute, senior Summer Washburn ripped a shot which Gartner turned away to preserve the one-goal edge.

Bowdoin would get a few more shots off, with junior Breck Sullivan notching her team-high fourth defensive save of the year, but the Polar Bears would find the insurance goal in the 23rd minute when Mettler Growney scored her second of the year on a shot from the top of the circle, which got into the left side of the goal.

Clewer stood strong in the Salisbury net over the next eight minutes, recording six saves in that time, keeping the Gulls within striking distance.

Salisbury broke through with just over two minutes remaining when the Sea Gulls were awarded a penalty corner. Washburn got the first shot, but was stopped by Gartner and senior Mallory Elliott’s try was stopped by Bowdoin back Kelsey Mullaney, but sophomore Becca Rinaca was there to slam the ball home, cutting the lead to 2-1.

The score was Rinaca’s 10th of the year after having missed just over a month due to injury and the national semifinal game was her first back on the field.

Clewer was forced to make one more save in the first half, keeping the game 2-1 at the break. Clewer made nine saves in the first 35 minutes, as Bowdoin held the edge in shots, 16-4, and penalty corners, 5-3.

The Polar Bears would cling to that one-goal edge over the final 35 minutes of play, surrendering just two shots to Salisbury in the second half.

Freshman Natalie Wilkinson got the first effort, six minutes into the period, but Gartner was there to make her second, and final, save of the day.

Elliott would attempt a shot with 14 minutes left, off Salisbury’s lone penalty corner chance of the half, but it missed wide right.

The Polar Bears would attempt just three shots in the second half, with one on target, which Clewer handled. She finished with 10 saves in the game, her second-highest total of the year.

“It’s always a great tribute to our program and these fine young women for what they’ve done to get here,” Salisbury Head Coach Dawn Chamberlin said. “We always have a target on our back and we have to work extra hard day in, day out. Coming off a season like we had last year, to make it back, it’s very difficult to make it back to the final four, and we did. I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve accomplished this year.”

The loss brings to a close the career of five Salisbury seniors – Gloria Godinez, Karen Cindea, Elliott, Washburn and Clewer. Over the past four seasons, the Sea Gulls have put together an impressive 69-11 record with four NCAA tournament appearances, including two trips to the national championship weekend.

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