One statistic stands out from Salisbury's 18-7 regional championship victory over Catholic on Sunday: draw controls.
Catholic won 17 of 27, an anomaly for the No. 1 Sea Gulls, who have used their advantage on draw controls to fuel a 22-0 season and their fifth trip to the Division III final four.
The Sea Gulls have won almost 100 more draws than their opponents this season, thanks in large part to midfielder Robyn Bishop, who handles most of the draws. She has won 58 of them herself.
On Sunday, the Sea Gulls still outshot Catholic 37-22, but against Hamilton in tomorrow's semifinal in Salem, Va., they likely will need to return to their earlier dominance on the draws and thus, possession. Bishop, a River Hill graduate, is ready.
"I don't know what it is some days," she said. "This whole season, we've been on top of them. [Sunday], we gave our all the whole game, but we were feeling a little fatigued. This weekend, we're going to get them."
The Sea Gulls also are looking for a big game from their defense, led by Jessica Liston (Old Mill), Maddie Goetz (Fallston), Jess Glazer (Mount Hebron), Kelly Phillips, Holly Johnson and goalie Sonja Stuart. They have the fourth best scoring defense in Division III, allowing just 6.22 goals per game.
Salisbury coach Jim Nestor said his defense, which includes only two seniors, has meshed well this season.
"They're communicating and talking and that's helping the defense run that much smoother," said Nestor, whose team is looking for its first national title.
Terps' D on the rise
Maryland's unheralded defense has come a long way since falling to Duke, 14-13, on March 1.
The Terrapins want to show the Blue Devils just how far when Duke comes to College Park tomorrow for an NCAA Division I quarterfinal. No other team has scored that many goals on third seed Maryland (18-2) this season, and only five others have made it to double figures.
"Our defense has come leaps and bounds since that game," senior defender Katie Pumphrey said. "That was our first real challenge, and I think we weren't really sure how we were going to put our defense together. We hadn't really bought into what our coaches were telling us."
It all came together in the next game, an 8-5 win over Virginia. The Terps' defense has been one of the stingiest in the nation since then.
"When we played Virginia, we understood the concepts our coaches wanted us to understand and ever since then, we've all been on the same page," said Severna Park graduate Pumphrey, whose Terps are looking for their first trip to the final four since 2003.
The defense, anchored by Pumphrey, Megan Cassara, Katie Gallagher and Karissa Taylor, has held opponents to just 7.77 goals per game. That's the sixth best scoring defense in Division I.
Senior goalie Allie Buote (St. Mary's) ranks fifth in goals allowed, giving up 7.48 per game.
"Allie, in the cage, has such a presence," Pumphrey said. "The more we step up, the more she does and the more she steps up, the more we do. We challenge each other to get better each game."