Bullets Head Back to Salem for Final Four

GETTYSBURG, Pa.  Gettysburg College will defend its national championship on familiar turf this weekend as the Bullets return to the site of their 2017 NCAA Division III title run to face No. 2 Salisbury University in Saturday's semifinal at Kerr Stadium on the campus of Roanoke College in Salem, Va.
 
Gettysburg (19-2) fought off challenges to its title defense all spring on the way to clinching its seventh trip to the NCAA Division III semifinals since 2006. Among its 19 victories this season, 11 came against top-25 foes, including six against teams ranked among the top 10. The target was on the Bullets' back from the opening whistle, and the team took its hits and kept marching on.
 
"Our team is so excited to be returning to the final four as it signifies the accomplishments of our goals and represents the hard work, grit and mindfulness of the squad," said Head Coach Carol Cantele '83. "Returning to the final four as the reigning champion isn't easy.  They have their eyes on the prize, that's for sure and they will be giving us their very best versions of themselves this upcoming weekend."
 
This weekend's championship event features arguably one of the best fields in tournament history. The top four nationally-ranked teams entering the postseason held true to form and raced into the semifinals. Third-ranked Gettysburg will face No. 2 Salisbury University (21-1) Saturday at 11:30 a.m., while top-ranked College of New Jersey (20-2) faces No. 4 Middlebury College (19-2) at 2:30 p.m.
 
The two winning teams will battle for the title Sunday at 2 p.m.
 
For information on the venue, tickets, and more, please visit: http://www.odaconline.com/ncaachampionships/wlax/index.
 
The final four teams of 2018 have combined to win 23 of the 32 national championships awarded since 1985. Gettysburg seeks to repeat as national champion against a field that includes the only other three programs to pull off back-to-back titles. TCNJ won consecutive titles in 1987-88, 1991-96, and 2005-06. Middlebury won championships in 2001 and 2002, while Salisbury was the most recent repeat champ in 2013 and 2014.
 
Three of the four teams feature players with national title game experience. Middlebury won the 2016 title, while Gettysburg beat TCNJ for last year's crown. All four teams are also led by national championship winning coaches. Salisbury's Jim Nestor owns three titles (2010, 2013-14), while Middlebury's Kate Livesay won a title at Trinity (Conn.) College in 2012 before leading the Panthers to the crown two years ago. Sharon Pfluger from TCNJ tops them all with 11 national championships.
 
"This is a great group of student-athletes and coaches," noted Cantele, who led Gettysburg to its first NCAA title in 2011. "These athletes have competed on the national stage and they will all likely be composed and confident which should make for some outstanding match ups."
 
Gettysburg has extensive familiarity with all of its potential opponents this weekend, particularly when it comes to the NCAA playoffs. During their two national championship runs, the Bullets posted wins over Salisbury, including a 10-2 win in last May's regional championship. Five of the nine meetings between the two teams have taken place in the national tournament. Gettysburg has won the last three contests with Salisbury and leads the series 5-4.
 
TCNJ holds a 16-7 lead in the series with Gettysburg. Five of those contests took place in the postseason, including a pair of meetings in the title game. The Lions won the 2006 championship game, but the Bullets took last year's title tilt 6-5. Gettysburg beat TCNJ 9-5 earlier this season.
 
Four of the last six meetings between Gettysburg and Middlebury have taken place on the national stage. The Panthers won the last 13-9 on the way to capturing the national championship in 2016. Middlebury holds an 8-2 lead in the all-time series.
 
Gettysburg is coming off a weekend that saw a dominant 11-goal victory over the fifth-ranked team in the country and a determined rally from five goals down against the sixth-ranked squad. The team enters the final weekend with the third-best defense in the country with 5.52 goals allowed per game. At 15.5 goals per game, the team is scoring at the second-best rate in program history.
 
The Bullets had a game plan coming into the 2018 campaign that included taking it one game at a time and focusing on the next opponent. Even with the lure of another national trophy looming Sunday, the team has its eyes solely focused on Saturday's semifinal against Salisbury.  
 
"We are doing a combination of focusing on us and the little tweaks that we need to make as well as showing the team the tendencies of our opponents by way of film and practice," said Cantele about this team's preparation leading up to the weekend. "At this point in the season, we aren't going to change much, if anything, but rather just plan to do the usual exceptionally well."