Four fight for title
Trinity (Conn.) highlights field competing in Owings Mill, Md.
OWINGS MILL, Md. -- Trinity (Conn.), Salisbury, Middlebury and Cortland State will decide the Division III women’s lacrosse national championship Saturday and Sunday.
After months of training, practice and hard-fought games, the title comes down to these two days.
Action gets started Saturday at 10:30 a.m. ET, with a meeting between Middlebury and unbeaten Salisbury.
“First of all, we know we have to take one game at a time,” Salisbury head coach Jim Nestor said. “We can’t play Sunday without playing well Saturday. We’re focusing on Middlebury first and foremost. We’re just hoping we can come out and play well offensively against their strong defense.
“Defensively, we have to make sure to defend their top scorers and check. Once we do that, hopefully, we can focus on Sunday and whoever we might be playing.”
Middlebury, ranked third in the nation going into the tournament, boasts a rich heritage in women’s lacrosse. In 32 years as the Panthers’ head coach, Missy Foote has guided the program to five NCAA championships and four perfect seasons.
The same four teams met to decide last year’s national champion, and after the two teams hooked up, Foote knows that Salisbury has great athletes who are very disciplined.
“We know that we’re going to have to play a lot better game than we did last year to beat them,” Foote said. “We’ve got some players who can put the ball in the goal and we’ve got some great defenders, so we’re a good mix at both ends of the field. We’ve got some speed and we’ve got a lot of heart.”
Next will come a noon contest between Trinity -- ranked first in the nation going into the tournament -- and SUNY Cortland. Trinity won it all in 2012, and after losing only three impact players from last year’s title team, the Bantams are back and even more seasoned. Eight seniors are on the roster, including seven who play major minutes.
Leadership is one key ingredient for Trinity. Defense is another.
“We put teams under a lot of pressure,” head coach Kate Livesay said, who ironically enough, played for Foote at Middlebury. “As soon as they get the ball, we’re all over them. Our attackers are really great defenders, which oftentimes isn’t the case. Oftentimes, attackers just don’t embrace that opportunity.
“Our strength is that it’s not easy for other teams when they get the ball. They’re under constant pressure. We create some momentum shifts for ourselves that way, just in terms of causing turnovers before the ball even gets to our defensive side.”
Asked for a scouting report on Trinity, Cortland State head coach Kathy Taylor laughed. It would be easier, she said, to list Trinity’s weaknesses than its strengths.
“They’re a very talented team. They won a national championship last year,” Taylor said. “They have gone on to remain undefeated in a very difficult schedule and tournament. They are very strong in all areas. Their defense is stingy. They have good speed. They share the ball. They don’t have a lot of weaknesses.”
Located in upstate New York, the Red Dragons of Cortland State are happy that spring has finally arrived.
“We work really hard,” Taylor said. “We’ve had a difficult weather season. It feels like it hasn’t been spring until the last two weeks, so when the sun came out and the warm weather came around, we started to really enjoy the spring sport.
“We played a lot of cold days in practice and games, in snow and rain. It’s just exciting for us to be still playing and have some nice weather to do it in. They’ve worked hard to be able to run fast and compete with the best teams out there.”