Salisbury men’s soccer faced off against Capital Athletic Conference foe Christopher Newport University in the first of two meetings this season. The Sea Gulls lost their fourth contest in a row in heartbreaking fashion, 2-1.
The Gulls came in with a 6-5-1 record. They got off to a hot start to the 2019 campaign, going 5-1 through their first six games. Since then, they have lost five of their last six and have allowed 12 goals in that stretch.
Freshman goalie Gabe Dunn felt this game was a little different than the previous three losses.
“Our defense really stepped it up, and we played a complete game ... it was just an unlucky result,” Dunn said.
Dunn started and played all 90 minutes in goal for the Gulls, allowing two goals while recording three saves on five shots on goal.
The Sea Gulls began the game by nearly capitalizing on a corner kick just five minutes into the first half. However, the opportunity was shut down by the back line for the Captains.
Both teams struggled to find opportunities on the offensive side due to strong defensive play throughout the contest.
The only shots on goal in the game came from corner kicks. Both sides finished with three on the day.
The game remained scoreless at the break, with the two defenses putting on a clinic.
Dunn attributed the lack of first-half scoring to the strong performance defensively against the number 23 team in Division III men’s soccer.
“The back three played their guts out,” Dunn said, “Our one-on-one defending really, really stepped it up today.”
The second half started much like the first, with few chances to score for either team. Each team again had attempts at corner kicks that did not turn into goals.
The Captains broke the scoring silence, getting on the board when Lincoln Kickbush chipped the ball over Dunn on an apparent defensive miscommunication in the 68th minute of the contest.
After 18 scoreless minutes, Salisbury would finally even up the score with a one-on-one chip shot over Christopher Newport goalie Justin Piercy in the 86th minute by freshman Cullen Myers.
Myers said he had to make a split-second decision and knew there was only one way to get the ball through the defense.
“I had time just to get one touch,” Myers said. “I knew the only way I was going to beat him was up top, so I just went over him.”
The atmosphere of the home crowd was electric after the goal by Myers. Fans began getting comfortable in their seats as there was a general feeling that overtime was approaching, until shortly after that goal, with less than two minutes left in the match, when a penalty kick was called in favor of Christopher Newport.
Derek Cook sent the shot in and buried it past Dunn to take the 2-1 lead with less than two minutes remaining.
With not much time on the clock, the Sea Gulls were able to put together one last effort to score.
As the game clock hit zero, whistles were blown, and Salisbury was awarded a free kick right outside of the penalty box. This prompted every player in the field to come up to the box, including Dunn.
The free kick was taken, but saved by Piercy, and Salisbury fell to 6-6-1 and just 1-4 in CAC play this season.
This was another close loss for the Gulls, as their last three losses have all been by one goal.
Head coach Alex Hargrove said he saw some improvements, but it was the mental and physical errors that cost his team the win.
“There has been emphasis on defending one-on-one and also defending as an entire group of 11, and just like Wednesday night, they did a good job of it,” Hargrove said. “One or two mistakes on the defensive end cost us the game."
Salisbury returns to action on Wednesday as it hosts York College of Pennsylvania at home at 4 p.m.
By COREY YOUNG
Featured photo: Brendan Link image.