Montclair, N.J. - Junior attacker Kaitlin Hildebrand (Berwyn, Pa.) scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in the second half to lead the Trinity College Bantams to an 8-7 victory over the top-ranked and previously-undefeated Salisbury University Sea Gulls in the 2012 NCAA Division III Championship Finals this afternoon on Sprague Field at Montclair State University. Trinity wins its first NCAA Women's Lacrosse title in its first appearance in the NCAA Final Four, finishing the season with a best-ever 21-1 final record. Hildebrand, senior co-captains Liz Bruno (Andover, Mass.) and Liza Beckler (Potomac, Md.), junior goalkeeper Olivia Whitney (Danvers, Mass.), and sophomore attacker Shea Kusiak (Longmeadow, Mass.) were named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team, and Bruno took home Most Outstanding Player honors. Salisbury ends its year at 22-1.
Trinity scored the only four goals of the first half, as the defensive unit of Beckler, junior Mallory Hinman (Longmeadow, Mass.), and sophomores Lyndsey Shepard (Hamilton, Mass.) and Midge Daniel (Wellesley, Mass.) held Salisbury to just five shots and Whitney made saves on all three shots on goal. Hildebrand scored the first goal of the game 2:04 into the contest on a wrap around the back of the goal, beating Salisbury sophomore goalie Ashton Wheatley (Cambridge, Md.) who had left the crease. Bantam rookie midfielder Caroline Hayes (Greenland, N.H.) scored on a free position with 10:43 on the clock, and junior attacker Hadley Duncan (Rye, N.Y.) scored on a spin move followed by a bouncing shot past Wheatley for a 3-0 Trinity lead with 7:12 remaining. Kusiak completed the first-half scoring with just under five minutes left before the break, darting through the Sea Gull defense up the middle. Salisbury junior midfielder Kara Koolidge (Annapolis, Md.) hit the post on a shot from close late in the first half to account for the closest Sea Gull chance of the opening stanza. The Sea Gulls committed 11 turnovers in the first half and faced a four-goal deficit for the first time this spring.
Salisbury answered in a big way after intermission, scoring five unanswered goals beginning with an unassisted tally by senior midfielder Alyssa Fowler (Odenton, Md.) just 48 seconds into the second half. Sea Gull junior midfielder Lauren Feusahrens (Solomons Island, Md.) fed rookie Bethany Baer (Westminster, Md.) on the second Salisbury goal and scored twice more to tie the game at 4-4 with 19:14 on the clock. Senior midfielder Amanda Holsclaw (Abingdon, Md.) scored from junior attackman Katie Bollhorst (Severna Park, Md.) at the 17:11 mark to give Salisbury its first and only lead at 5-4.
Just over one minute after falling behind for the first time of the weekend, Hildebrand drew a foul on an attempt from the left side and converted the ensuing free-position shot with a shot high and to the left of Wheatley. Hildebrand, who scored the game-winning goal with four seconds left in Trinity's NESCAC Finals win against Middlebury and the game-tying goal to force overtime in the NESCAC Semifinal win against Hamilton two weekends ago, netted the clincher in this game with 13:07 remaining, as Bruno found her cutting down the middle from the right wing. Duncan tallied Trinity's third free-position goal of the game with 11:16 left, and Bruno powered through the Sea Gull defense and scored to give the Bantams a three-goal cushion at 8-5 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the contest. Baer scored a minute later and again with 2:28 left to close the deficit to one, but Trinity was awarded the draw on a violation and Trinity held possession until the final seconds. Salisbury pressured the ball aggressively in the final two minutes, but Duncan hustled down a pair of loose balls to help preserve the win.
"This team is focused," said Trinity Head Coach Kate Livesay (6th Season). "We have been down during the year but our goal is to play well and we know that when we don't play well we could find ourselves behind in games. It is this team's desire to win that gets us out of those situations."
Trinity doubled Salisbury's ground ball total, 14-to-7, and held an 18-to-14 edge on shots, while Salisbury led on draw controls, 11-to-6, but committed 16 turnovers and came up empty on two free positions. Hildebrand had a hat trick, while Bruno totaled one goal, one assist, and a game-high five ground balls, and junior midfielder Megan Leonhard (Summit, N.J.) won four draw controls. Beckler caused three turnovers, and Whitney finished with five saves. Baer scored three times for Salisbury, while senior midfielder Allie Wheatley (Cambridge, Mass.) totaled four draw controls, and Ashton Wheatley stopped four shots. The Bantam women's lacrosse squad, appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time and the third year in a row, gave Trinity its second NCAA title as an institution. The Trinity baseball team won the 2008 title with a 45-1 record, while Trinity's men's squash team won national intercollegiate crowns 13 years in a row from 1998 to 2011, and the Bantam women's squash team won national titles in 2002 and 2003.
"We played well because we enjoyed this weekend from start to finish," added Livesay. "We have fun being together and playing well together as a team."