EWING, N.J. - The nation's top-scoring Division III offense carried No.7 Salisbury State to the most wins in school history and a first appearance in the Final Four, but that attack was nowhere to be found yesterday.
Top-ranked College of New Jersey shut out the Sea Gulls for the first 36:21 of the game and rolled to a 19-4 NCAA Division III women's lacrosse tournament semifinal victory on its home field, Lions Stadium.
The Lions, who were upset by Amherst in last year's semifinal, will go after their 10th national title at noon today when they meet No.4 Williams, an upset winner yesterday over defending champ Middlebury.
Yesterday, the Lions (16-0) were so dominant that they had a 9-0 lead before Salisbury's all-time leading scorer, Jen Mezzadra, put the Gulls on the scoreboard. They outshot the Gulls 49-15 in the game and 29-7 in the first half.
The Gulls (15-3) came into the semifinal averaging 19.5 goals. They had scored more than 20 goals 10 times and had been held under 10 only twice. Their lowest output before yesterday had been their 18-6 loss to the Lions on March 17.
Yesterday, Salisbury started off the game in promising fashion with a couple of strong defensive stands, but each time, they turned over the clear and the Lions converted."We played strong defense," said Gulls coach Dawn Chamberlin, "but you can't play strong defense and not be strong offensively. We just weren't on today. We had two great games coming in attackwise, but we were flat today and that hurt us."
Turnovers - 25 in the game - continued to hurt the Gulls, who were also shut out in the first half of last year's second-round loss to Middlebury."Most of the teams we've played haven't put as much pressure on us as New Jersey did," said Gulls senior Carolyn Murray. "We got better at handling it, but it was a little too late. Once you get down by that margin, it's difficult to come back."
The Gulls couldn't come closer than eight. After Mezzadra scored, the Lions answered with two straight to boost their lead to 11-1. Mezzadra and Annie Sappington added back-to-back Gulls goals, but the Lions answered that mini-run with six goals.
Salisbury's Michelle Haynie, with an assist on Sappington's goal, boosted her record for assists in the tournament to 11. The Arundel graduate set a single-game tournament record with eight assists in the 24-6 first-round victory over Denison.
The Lions' Valerie Cherill also tied a tournament record. Her nine points - four goals and five assists - matched the mark for most points in a Final Four game.
For the Gulls, yesterday's disappointing loss marked the end of a record-setting season. Not only did Mezzadra become the all-time leading scorer with 198 points, but the Gulls also set team records for goals (336) and assists (184).
"This was our first appearance here," said Chamberlin, "and we laid the foundation for what we're going to be able to do in the future."