Salisbury men’s soccer faced its Capital Athletic Conference rival York College on Wednesday evening as it fought to return to the win column. The Sea Gulls dropped their four prior games, dropping them to .500 on the year after a 5-1-1 start.
The Salisbury players came into the game with revenge on their mind, as they had lost their last two contests to York. The first of these came in a 5-0 rout in the final regular season game of 2018, and the second was just eight days ago by a 1-0 score.
The last Sea Gull victory over York came in thrilling fashion in the first round of the 2017 CAC Tournament. A 1-1 tie after 110 minutes sent the game to penalty kicks.
Trevor Brookhart played the hero of the match as he buried the go-ahead penalty kick and immediately followed with the game-winning save to send Salisbury to the CAC semifinal.
Salisbury’s last regular season win against the Spartans came on Sept. 26, 2015. The Gulls were able to secure a 2-0 win in that contest with second-half goals from Brooks Zentgraf and Leslie Umunna.
The Sea Gulls are in the thick of their Capital Athletic Conference schedule. After opening CAC play with a win over Southern Virginia University, Salisbury would lose its next four contests by just one goal.
As the Spartans traveled to Salisbury, the Sea Gulls looked to fine-tune their play from the previous four games.
Head coach Alex Hargrove said this helped his team cut down on and manage their errors as the game progressed.
“The difference between tonight and the last few games is we managed our mistakes a little better,” Hargrove said.
Salisbury’s attention to detail was evident, as it was solid on defense all night, stifling the York attack and allowing just a handful of scoring chances.
Freshman goalie Gabe Dunn, who made his third collegiate start in the match, said the strong play from his defense helped the team secure the win.
“We were locked in for 90 minutes, and the ball went the right way for us,” Dunn said. “The backline, Evan [Koen], Trent [Hofmeister] and Mack [Matt Mackenzie], were all amazing and defending well.”
The beginning of the game was played mostly at midfield with alternating possessions and no clear advantage. The familiarity between the Sea Gulls and Spartans was easy to see as they each anticipated the other’s next move.
As the game continued, the intensity grew, and players got more physical, causing both teams' offensive attacks to come alive.
A through ball from York midfielder Sam Johnson set up forward Keith Witherell in front of Dunn, who made a diving save. Dunn received a yellow card, but the subsequent free kick was blocked, which ended one of York’s best scoring chances.
Salisbury wasted no time getting a solid chance of its own as midfielder Matt Hawkins took a strong right-footed strike after racing down the right sideline. His shot was punched up and had the potential for an attempt on the rebound, but York goalie Josh Kappes recovered and ended the Sea Gull chance.
Going into half, Salisbury had a slight advantage in shots at six to four, but the score remained tied.
The second half started with York forming an early surge into Salisbury territory, but the Sea Gulls rallied to turn it away. After that, the game was played at midfield for a few minutes until forward Cullen Myers made a beautiful run down the left sideline in the 56th minute.
Myers received a pass from the team’s leading assist man, forward Dolph Hegewisch. He sprinted by his defender with the ball, where he was met by the York goalie, who he easily shrugged off, and then was able to angle the ball into the vacant net.
Myers said the goal was about being in the right place at the right time and getting a little lucky with his foot.
“I was being optimistic … Dolph had a good flick-in, and the ball rolled under the defender’s foot,” Myers said. “I knew it was going to be awkward for the goalie and the center back, so I just tried to get my foot there first, and I did.”
From there, Salisbury parked the bus and held York without a solid possession for the remainder of the game. Myers' lone score was all the Sea Gulls needed to outlast rival York 1-0 and end its four-game conference losing streak.
Hargrove said taking the game over their rival is significant, but the Sea Gulls still have ground to make up, and they have no real margin for error moving forward.
“The rivalry between our two schools runs deep, so it’s always good to get a win against York, but we need to keep plugging ahead and can’t look behind us, only look to the next game,” Hargrove said.
Salisbury will have another chance at revenge against St. Mary’s College of Maryland on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Sea Gulls lost to St. Mary’s 2-1 when they last played on Oct. 5.
By ALEX BOESMAN
Featured photo: Emma Reider image.