Salisbury women, seeded No. 1 in D-III, only unbeaten team in any division

May 10, 2012|By Katherine Dunn

At the beginning of the season, Salisbury coach Jim Nestor and his Sea Gulls set one goal – to win the Capital Athletic Conference.

Now, the Sea Gulls can set their sites a bit higher.

After winning their 12th straight CAC title, the Sea Gulls are the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division III tournament. Behind CAC Player of the Year Katie Bollhorst, six other first-team all-conference selections and a defense that allows just 4.74 goals per game, the Sea Gulls are 19-0 – the only team in all of women’s college lacrosse to go into the tournament unbeaten.

With 16 veterans  from a year ago, the Sea Gulls are looking to make up for last season’s loss in the NCAA quarterfinals to eventual national champ Gettysburg.  The Sea Gulls won their only national crown in 2010 in their sixth trip to the final four.

“They’ve been very focused from the beginning to just play better each game and to win our conference,” Nestor said. “That was our first goal. Now, it’s to get back to that final four.”

Sohomore goalie Ashton Wheatley, from Cambridge, leads Division III averaging 5.60 goals allowed while the team ranks seventh in scoring offense with 16.05 goals per game. That gives the Sea Gulls a nation’s-best scoring margin of 11.32.

In addition to Wheatley, defenders Meghan Toomey (St. Mary’s) and Alyssa Hardesty were named first-team All-CAC while Mackenzie White, Kat Gartner (South River) and Dominique Dipino (Dulaney) also have played key roles in the nation’s stingiest defense.

The whole team gets credit for the defensive effort.

“It really starts with the ride,” said Nestor, whose team has allowed opponents to succeed on only 54 percent of their clears. “They do a great job there, but then when we are down on that defensive end, it starts with our our goalkeeper. Ashton Wheatley’s done a great job this year, very athletic. We focused on that, because we knew we were giving up too many goals last year.”

Last season, the Sea Gulls allowed 159 goals in 22 games. This season, they’ve cut that to 90 with, at best, three games to go.

On the attack, Bollhorst (St. Mary’s) leads the team in points with 105, including 63 assists while All-CAC midfielder Lauren Feusahrens has 79 points, including 60 goals. Eight players have contributed 20 or more points this season, including All-CAC first team picks Alyssa Fowler (Arundel) with 27 goals and 13 assists and Allie Wheatley, Ashton’s big sister, with 46 goals and five assists.

Nestor, in his 11th season, said he’s been fortunate to have his team healthy all season although at least one starter is iffy for Saturday’s game. Still, it helped that the Sea Gulls got a first-round bye and didn’t have to play Wednesday. Only the top seed gets a bye in the 31-team Division III field.

The Sea Gulls will meet St. John Fisher, from New York. in Saturday’s 11 a.m. regional final. The winner advances to the final four May 19 at Montclair State in New Jersey with the title game on May 20.

“Hopefully, we can stay healthy through this week,” Nestor said. “We’re expecting tough games. We’re not looking past this weekend, that’s for sure. We know we’ve got one game at a time, because it’s a one-game season right now.”

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