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Salisbury Stands Atop Capital

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Salisbury Stands Atop Capital

Salisbury hoists the conference trophy. (Photo: Jennifer Barnhart)

During the Capital conference’s first two years of existence, the women’s DII college final has fulfilled every expectation for a season-peaking match. On both occasions, Mary Washington beat Salisbury by single digits (24-17 in 2013, 29-24 in 2014), and the pair lined up once again on Sunday. Salisbury was hoping for a “third time’s a charm” scenario, but the Maryland team needed no sorcery in defeating its rival 31-17 for its first-ever conference title.

“As a coach, it was something I’ll always remember,” said Salisbury coach Brock Brooks, who’s been with the team two years. “It was very fulfilling to see the girls work so hard and have it all come together, especially with the number of seniors we have. We knew it was coming; we knew we’d see Mary Washington in the final. And that’s how we played all of our games. All season long, that’s what we were striving toward.”

But it wasn’t an unfettered path to the playoffs. Salisbury unexpectedly tied Towson during the regular season, and piqued some interest in terms of squad strength.

“The Towson game was a hiccup,” said Brooks, who was missing three starting backs, two of which were four-year starters. “We knew it was going to be a hard game because of the people we were missing, and we controlled everything we could control during the game. It was the things we couldn’t control that hurt us.”

The team internalized that disappointment as motivation and went on to beat American 72-0. In Saturday’s semifinal, Salisbury continued to embrace coach Brooks' mantra, “We don’t lose,” and bettered George Washington 52-12. Prop Teresa Alvarez scored a hat trick in the semifinal, while No. 8 Kathryn Todorovich scored two tries, and outside center Rayne Trouwborst, hooker Allison Hiken, and fullback Mariah Hackett also dotted down.

On the other side of the bracket, Mary Washington defeated Virginia Commonwealth 20-0 in the semifinals to set up the final. The first half was a game and produced a 12-12 tie into the break, but then Salisbury put that game out of reach.

“Our motto was ‘play defense and support,’ and once the girls realized their defense was a lot better than they perceived, there was a mentality shift,” Brooks explained. “In the second half, we played a more aggressive defense and shut down their offense. We also played in their end more, a lot of kick-and-chase, and took advantage of Mary Washington who didn’t change their game at all.”

Todorovich was particularly strong in the breakdown and led the forwards in stealing more possession. The loose forward tallied two tries, and Alvarez added another to match Todorovich’s four scores on the weekend. Halfbacks Ashley Chafin and Jess Barnhart (who slotted nine of 13 conversions), and fullback Hackett did well to move the ball quickly, and helped wings Jessica Werth and Tara Grover into the try zone for the 19-point win.

It was a sweet victory, but Salisbury is looking ahead. Unlike the majority of college conferences that play in the fall, the Capital league sends its representatives to the spring playoffs, and that’s where Salisbury is focusing its energy as heads into the off-season. The conference championship is just a step toward nationals, where there is another “first” to conquer.