Bullets Fly Past Sea Gulls into National Title Game

SALEM, Va.  Sophomore Courtney Patterson(Whitehouse Station, N.J./Hunterdon Central Regional) scored three goals and junior goalie Bailey Pilder (New Canaan, Conn./New Canaan) recorded 11 saves to vault No. 3 Gettysburg College past No. 2 Salisbury University 12-7 and into the NCAA Division III Championship game for the second consecutive season.
Gettysburg (20-2) clinched a spot in the national finals for the fourth time in program history. The Bullets will seek their third NCAA championship against No. 4 Middlebury College (20-2), which defeated top-ranked College of New Jersey (20-3) 13-9 in Saturday's second semifinal. Sunday's national title game is set for 2 p.m. at Kerr Stadium on the campus of Roanoke College.
The Orange and Blue knocked off Salisbury (21-2) for the second consecutive year on its way through the NCAA playoffs. The Bullets also defeated the Sea Gulls during its run to the national title in 2011.
"Today's game was electric," said Head Coach Carol Cantele '83. "I think it was two solid teams playing great lacrosse. We took advantage of every set, both offensively and defensively. We made some incredible defensive stops. Offensively the players rose to the occasion and made their minutes matter and really thrived at the right time."
Patterson led a well-balanced offensive attack that saw eight different players reach the scoreboard for Gettysburg. Senior Katie Willis (Baltimore, Md./Notre Dame Prep) tallied two goals and two assists, while junior Lauren Cole(Madison, Conn./Daniel Hand) tossed in a pair of goals and senior Katie Landry (Hingham, Mass./Hingham) posted a goal and two assists.
The Bullets won 14-of-20 draw controls with junior Steph Colson (Westminster, Md./Manchester Valley) leading the charge. Colson procured nine draw controls to go with a goal, assist, and three ground balls. The junior midfielder broke the Centennial Conference record for draw controls in a season and now has 131.
"I tried not to get too caught up with what was happening with the girl next to me and just watched the ball and the ref because when she puts her hand down you have to be first off the line," said Colson. "We just have a really good draw squad and we pride ourselves in that and it's seemed to work so far."
Pilder keyed the defensive effort with 11 saves and picked up three ground balls and a caused turnover. Senior Cassie Smith (Phoenix, Md./St. Paul's School for Girls) added two ground balls and a caused turnover.
Emma Skoglund posted a hat trick and three draw controls to lead Salisbury. Krissy Murphy added a goal and four assists, while goalie Gianna Falcone finished with nine saves, three ground balls, and two caused turnovers.
Gettysburg seized momentum from the outset, grabbing the game's first four draw controls and building a 4-0 advantage. Patterson accounted for the first two scores before a free-position goal by Cole and an unassisted tally by Willis that trickled into the cage with 15:03 to go in the first half.
Skoglund turned in Salisbury's first goal with 12:40 on the clock, but Patterson followed up a stop by the Bullets' defense with a goal four minutes later to make it 5-1.
The Sea Gulls cut the deficit to 5-2 before the break on a tally by Courtney Fegan.
After posting seven stops in the first half, Pilder began the second period with a save and Gettysburg came right back down the field for a goal as Landry set up sophomore Liza Barr (Medford, N.J./Shawnee) for a score.
"We focused a lot this week on the tendencies of Salisbury," noted Pilder. "I think the defense played really well today. We talked as a unit and we really communicated, which is the most important part about defense."
Salisbury was far from done. The Sea Gulls scored two goals on both sides of a save by Falcone to slice the deficit to two (6-4) with 23:03 remaining.
Pilder and Colson combined for what was arguably the game's best highlight. The junior goalie stuffed a shot by Gabrielle Mongno near the right post and Colson swooped in for the ground ball. The junior midfielder ran the entire length of the field, leaving friend and foe behind before bouncing a shot into the cage for a 7-4 lead.
"First I was thinking of getting out of the defensive end because Bailey made a great save and we had to capitalize on it," recalled Colson. "Then I was just running up the field and thinking there's the goal and an open path so I might as well take it."
Skoglund answered in short order to bring the deficit back down to two, but that would be as close as Salisbury would get. Pilder made another save and freshman Bri Stokes (Sudbury, Mass./Lincoln-Sudbury Regional) converted a free-position shot on the other end. After a Sea Gull turnover, Willis found the back of the net off a feed by Landry to push the lead to 9-5 with 15:16 to go.
Every time Salisbury knocked in the final 15 minutes, Gettysburg answered. After a goal by Allie Hynson, Colson seized the next draw control and later dished out an assist to Landry for a goal. The Sea Gulls again cut the deficit with a goal by Skoglund, but a caused turnover by Pilder set up the offense to attack the cage. Freshman Kerry McKeever (Stony Brook, N.Y./Ward Melville) scored with 3:11 left and Cole put the final touches on the win following a feed by Willis at 2:06.
Gettysburg seeks to become just the fourth Division III team to win back-to-back national titles. Four of the last six meetings between Middlebury and Gettysburg have taken place in the national playoffs with the Panthers winning three of those games. The two sides last met in the 2016 NCAA quarterfinals with Middlebury claiming a 13-9 decision.
Not long after walking off the rain-soaked turf at Kerr Stadium, the Bullets headed back to the hotel to begin preparing for another marquee matchup in Sunday's title game.
"We're going to put our feet up and we're going to enjoy all that comes," said Cantele. "It's going to be which team plays the best 60 minutes."