Updated: Jan 24, 2019
The top-seeded Salisbury University field hockey team entered the friendly confines of Sea Gull Stadium looking for redemption in the Capital Athletic Conference championship after its road double-overtime loss at Christopher Newport University last season in the same game.
This season, SU hosted the third-seeded Captains in a rematch of last season’s close battle, looking to rise back to the top of the CAC.
“This game being [at Salisbury] was very important,” SU junior defender Jillian Hughes said. “Having home field advantage, having all of our fans here, playing on the turf we practice on every day really helped us a lot.”
The Captains came into this year’s contest off a 2-1 road victory over No. 2 York (Pa.) in the CAC semifinals. Having won their last nine games, the Sea Gulls came off a comfortable 3-0 victory over No. 4 Mary Washington in their semifinal.
“We are all family here,” SU sophomore forward Rebecca Lloyd said. “[Our team] prides ourselves on being a family and working together all the time. We know it’s not a one-person game, it’s an eleven-person game.”
Salisbury started out the game with a lot of pressure on CNU, keeping the ball on the Captains’ side of midfield for most of the first 10 minutes of the game. The Captains threatened with 27 minutes left in the first half, but the Sea Gulls’ defense guided the ball away.
The Sea Gulls were once again tested with two consecutive penalty corners and an aggressive Captains offense looking to score the game’s first goal. Salisbury’s defense fended off the CNU attacks once again. Salisbury had its own share of attacks in the first half with eight shots and three penalty corners.
Just over 16 minutes into the game, SU junior forward Tara Daddio found an open path to the net with only one Captain defender and the goalie to beat. A foul on Daddio led to a penalty stroke for Salisbury. Hughes took the penalty stroke for Daddio and scored her second goal of the season, putting Salisbury up 1-0.
CNU found a response just four minutes later, when junior midfielder Bailey Miller scored her fourth goal of the year off of a rebound. The game was knotted at 1-1 20 minutes in.
From there, a tight battle of possession ensued until SU found some consistency in CNU territory. The long possession was capped off by a goal from SU junior forward Rachel Dominico. Her third goal of the season gave Salisbury a pivotal 2-1 lead just before halftime.
Despite still a share in possession occurring, the Sea Gulls separated themselves from the Captains once again later on. SU sophomore forward Jenna Partilla assisted Lloyd to give Salisbury an insurance goal, giving SU the 3-1 advantage.
“We knew we needed an insurance goal, and Rebecca [Lloyd] went out there [in the second half] and got that for us,” SU head coach Dawn Chamberlin said.
The Sea Gulls hung on through the final 28 minutes to defeat CNU 3-1. Despite seven shots and six penalty corners in the second half, the Captains could not penetrate the Salisbury defense.
“It was a great [team] effort tonight,” Chamberlin said. “We had a good first half, and I believe we had an even better second half.”
Salisbury captured its 21st CAC championship in the last 24 seasons with Saturday night’s victory. The win clinches an automatic bid for SU in the upcoming National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. This year’s bracket will officially be released Sunday night at 11:30 p.m.
“Half the battle is believing; we believed that we could win this game,” Chamberlin said. “From day one, we set out to win [the CAC title], and we accomplished it.”
By BRANDON STARK
Featured photo: Salisbury poses for photos after winning the 2018 CAC championship (Brandon Stark image).