Bruno And Kusiak Lead Trinity Women's Lacrosse Past Cortland Into NCAA Finals
Montclair, N.J. – Senior co-captain midfielder Liz Bruno (Andover, Mass.) and sophomore Shea Kusiak (Longmeadow, Mass.) combined for six goals and one assist to lead the Trinity College Bantams to a 7-5 victory over the SUNY-Cortland Red Dragons in the NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse Championship Semifinals this afternoon on Sprague Field at Montclair State University. Trinity, ranked No. 5 in the nation, improves to a best-ever 20-1 and will face the undefeated (22-0) Salisbury University Sea Gulls, which downed Middlebury, 15-7, in the other semifinal today, in the NCAA Finals tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. at Montclair State. The Bantams, appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time and the third year in a row, were playing in the first NCAA Final Four in the program's history but had reached the NCAA Quarterfinals six times before advancing to today's game with a 7-5 win over Colby on Sunday.
"It is so hard to win the regional round, that today we sort of felt like the pressure was off and the team could just go out and play," said Trinity Head Coach Kate Livesay (6th Season). "We love our team and we don't put a lot of energy into who we are playing or who is talking about us, but our goal was to be here."
The Bantams took the lead early and maintained it the whole way, as Bruno scored the game's first goal 1:18 into the first half, followed by a goal by junior midfielder on a pass from behind the net by classmate Kaitlin Hildebrand (Berwyn, Pa.) at the 24:19 mark. Junior midfielder Maria Di Fato (Camillus, N.Y.) netted the first Red Dragon goal with 22:33 on the clock, before an 11:31 scoring drought for both teams ensued. Kusiak sidearmed a shot past Red Dragon junior backstop Shauna Hutchinson (Islip Terrace, N.Y.) from the right wing to cap off a five-plus minute Trinity possession with 11:02 on the clock, and Bruno added an unassisted tally with 7:21 left in the first to give Trinity its biggest lead of the day at 4-1. Cortland State senior attacker Erin Kollar (East Islip, N.Y.) scored man-up from rookie Marilyn Farrell (Fayatteville, N.Y.) with 17 seconds remaining before the break to slice the Bantam lead in half.
After over 10 minutes of scoreless play, Di Fato broke the silence with her second goal of the game at the 19:33 mark of the second stanza. Bruno beat her defender up the middle and fired past Hutchinson for a Bantam goal 1:03 later, but Red Dragon senior midfielder Lindsay Abbott (South Onondaga, N.Y.) answered on a free-position shot to make the score, 5-4, with 17:25 remaining. Both defenses were stingy over the next 10-plus minutes that included an interception and a save on a close Cortland shot by Bantam junior goalie Olivia Whitney (Danvers, Mass.).
Bruno caused a Red Dragon turnover and scooped the ground ball with just over 10 minutes left in the contest, and went on to feed Kusiak on a key insurance goal later in the possession, as Kusiak streaked through the middle and scooped a shot under Hutchinson's stick to give Trinity a 6-4 lead with 6:17 left. Junior attacker Gina Campese (East Syracuse, N.Y.) brought Cortland back to within one at 6-5 at the 5:21 mark, but Leonhard controlled the draw and Trinity held the ball for nearly two minutes before Kusiak snuck through an aggressive Red Dragon defense and completed her hat trick with a shot into an empty net. Leonhard once again won the draw, but Di Fato caused a Bantam turnover to give Cortland State one last chance. Di Fato's attempt was wide, however, and Trinity maintained possession the rest of the way.
Trinity held a slight edge on shots, 20-to-17, and picked up 19 ground balls to 14 for the Red Dragons. Kusiak and Bruno recorded a hat trick apiece, while Bruno added an assist, a game-high five ground balls, and a team-high four caused turnovers. Di Fato had one goal and one assist to go with four ground balls and a game-high seven caused turnovers, but committed seven fouls and received a late red card. Hutchinson and Whitney stopped five shots each, and the teams combined for 34 turnovers. The Bantam zone defense held Cortland State to its lowest scoring total of the season.