The No. 4-ranked Salisbury University field hockey team faced off against No. 8 John Hopkins University on Wednesday evening. In the end, Salisbury edged out a 2-1 victory to remain undefeated on the year.
Head coach Dawn Chamberlin was proud of her team’s performance against a top-10 team in Division III field hockey.
“In a game so tight, it was awesome that we were able to come away with a win [against a top 10 team],” Chamberlin said.
Early pressure by the Sea Gulls (7-0) in the first quarter led to a penalty corner less than three minutes into the game. Junior defender/midfielder Camryn Dennis found senior midfielder Arielle Johnston at the top of the circle, who sent the ball to the back of the cage for the first score of the day.
Although Salisbury was unable to score another goal in the first half, the Sea Gulls were able to maintain their pressure by getting off eight shots and forcing Blue Jays goalkeeper Katlin Hall to make four saves.
Chamberlin said that the strong pressure brought by the Sea Gulls helped them hold onto their first-half lead.
“Really nice pressure in the first half preventing [John Hopkins] from getting into their game,” Chamberlin said.
Salisbury had a strong defensive performance in the first half, as the Sea Gulls allowed just three shots in the first period and did not force a save from goalie Dom Farrace.
Farrace said that the defenders stood out and have played a key role in getting the Sea Gulls to where they are this season.
“Defense was solid throughout the game from all the way to the left and all the way to the right,” said Farrace. “If it were not for [Salisbury’s defenders], we would not be where we are as a team.”
With a 1-0 lead at halftime and a strong performance on both ends of the field, Salisbury seemed to be heading toward another win and remaining undefeated on the year.
However, John Hopkins flipped the script on the game by coming out strong in the third quarter, outshooting Salisbury 3-2.
“After the first goal, we eased up and let [Johns Hopkins] come right back into the game and let the moment shift,” Chamberlin said.
A rare mistake by Farrace resulted from this pressure as she failed to clear a shot and had to quickly clear the ball out before it rolled into the cage. This caused a penalty corner for the Blue Jays (4-2), which ultimately led to a goal scored by Sarah Matyas and assisted by Abby Birk.
At the end of the third quarter with the game tied, Salisbury did not collapse and instead banded together for the win. Farrace said that her teammates helped her bounce back from allowing the game-tying goal.
“The team helped me pick back up and stayed [focused] in the game after that,” Farrace said.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Blue Jays tried to continue their momentum and put together some solid possession, but Salisbury stuck together defensively and allowed just two shots the entire quarter.
As time was expiring in the fourth quarter, Salisbury’s offense was starting to put the pressure on the Blue Jays' defense. The Sea Gulls were able to draw a penalty corner in the 58th minute of regulation.
Going into the penalty corner, Dennis said the Sea Gulls were focused on one thing.
“We wanted to keep pushing [the ball] against the other team and trying to get [the ball] in the goal,” Dennis said.
Salisbury was able to score off this late chance, with the eventual game-winning goal coming from Dennis and assisted by McKenzie Mitchell.
Edging out the win over the eight-ranked team in Division III field hockey could prove to be important for national rankings as the season continues.
Dennis said that going forward, the Sea Gulls need to continue to push the other team with their strong pressure on both offense and defense.
“We need to keep pressure on the other team and not let them push them back and keeping themselves on their toes,” Dennis said.
Chamberlin believes that mental toughness is an area that needs improvement as the season continues.
“We could improve our mental toughness in the next game, as they let [John Hopkins] get in our head, which interfered with their skills,” Chamberlin said.
Salisbury will have a quick turnaround as it travels to fifth-ranked The College of New Jersey on Saturday for a battle of undefeated top-five teams. The game is set to begin at 1 p.m.
By TYLER SMITH
Featured photo: Emma Reider image.