The atmosphere of Lions Stadium was filled with the sights, sounds and intensity of a playoff game. Make that a NCAA Division III Championship game.
Undefeated and No.1-ranked Salisbury University faced-off against the No. 6-ranked College in a regular season rematch of last year’s National Championship game. The Salisbury Seagulls sought revenge against last year’s defending champ, but this year’s encounter ended with the same result, a huge 11-9 victory for the Lions.
“We had to play smart, have solid fundamentals and stick to our game,” head coach Sharon Pfluger said. “We have to bring our game to the next level to prepare us for the postseason.”
The College, now 8-2 on the season, racked up four unanswered goals to grab the lead 6-2, 15 minutes into the first half. Sophomore Karen Doane scored a pair, while freshman attacker Rachel Gordon added another. With 17:35 on the clock, senior captain Lauren Dougher, who broke the College’s all-time scoring record during the week, weaved through the entire Salisbury defense and notched her first goal of the match.
To end the first half, the Seagulls notched three straight goals with five minutes remaining. Junior midfielder Kate Simmons scored two goals in that span with senior midfielder Erin McCarthy adding a goal to cut the deficit to 6-5.
Senior midfielder Bridget Bigley had a huge second half, scoring three goals, including a sneaky wraparound shot that gave the Lions a 10-7 lead with 12:42 left to play.
Salisbury fought back with two straight goals by McCarthy and junior captain Ani Khatchatoorian to make the game 10-9.
With 5:14 remaining, sophomore attacker Kate Neese scored an insurance goal to put the Lions up for good.
With the clock winding down to 1:14 left, Seagulls sophomore midfielder Sue Ackermann came streaking down, looking to close the gap, but she was denied by senior goalie Megan Marquardt.
“It was everything,” Dougher said. “It was do or die for us. We can’t lose another game; we need to gear up for the postseason.”
Earlier in the week, Bigley led the team with six goals but Dougher fired in the most meaningful one of the game, breaking the College’s all-time scoring record with her 274th career point, as the visiting Lions dominated Cabrini College for a 17-3 non-conference win on April 11. Cabrini has been the reigning eight-time defending champions of the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference
“Her first priority is the team,” Pfluger said. “She’s unselfish and will never take credit. She’s a tremendous player and a dream for a coach to have.”
“I’m still thinking about national champs. That’s all I want,” Dougher said. “It’s the ultimate goal for us.”
Pfluger moved closer to her 300th career win. Pfluger now owns a career record of 299-23-1.
“Whatever number it is, it’s our girls” Pfluger said. “They’re out there doing it, I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
Dougher, who finished the match with four goals and two assists, received a pass from freshman Katie Reuther and scored the record-breaker 2:17 into the second half. The goal, her second of the day and 200th of her career, gave the College a 6-1 lead after an intense first half that ended at 4-1.
Dougher, the Division III Midfielder of the Year last season, finished the day with 276 career points on 202 goals and 74 assists. She surpassed Liz O’Connor’s career point mark of 273 (2000-2003, 188 goals, 85 assists).
Sophomore attacker Diane Haddeland came off the bench to open the second-half avalanche with the first of her three goals after just 54 seconds. Dougher followed up with her record-breaker, and two minutes later sophomore midfielder Toni-Anne Cavallo scored the first of her three goals.
Marquardt needed to make just five saves for the Lions, who outshot Cabrini 31-12.
Sophomore attacker Katelyn Penrose, Cabrini’s leading scorer with 37 goals, was held without an official shot by the Lions’ relentless defense, led by senior All-American Meredith Spangler, junior Jessica Lacontora and sophomore Christine Cavallo.
Championship caliber lacrosse continues Thursday, April 20 as the Lions host Colorado College at 7 p.m.