Salisbury University faced off against the Catholic University of America yesterday evening. The Sea Gulls could not continue their winning streak, falling to the Cardinals by a 3-2 margin.
This was the Sea Gulls’ (5-2-1) first loss in just under a month, as they had avoided the loss column since their opening season loss to Carnegie Mellon.
Defense was the strength of the team during the string of victories, allowing 0.67 goals per game over six games.
Head coach Alex Hargrove was not happy with the performance of his defense in the loss.
“The individual and collective defense today was just unacceptable,” Hargrove said.
The Cardinals (7-1-1) started the scoring in the 12th minute with an unassisted strike by forward Ben Alexander, who weaved his way through Salisbury defenders and placed the ball in the middle-right side of the net. His only shot of the contest proved to be an effective one, as it gave Catholic the 1-0 advantage.
Just three minutes after Alexander’s goal, the Cardinals were back in Salisbury territory threatening to notch another score. Midfielder Paul Egan received a volley, settled it with his left foot and finished it in the bottom right corner to push the lead to 2-0.
The Sea Gulls were faced with greater adversity through 15 minutes than they had seen through duration of their winning streak.
Forward Cullen Myers felt that the team was slow to get started in the first period of the contest.
“We were a little flat in the first half,” Myers said.
Salisbury was able to find composure and spark an attack of its own toward the end of the half. A free kick just outside the 18 by midfielder Dolph Hegewisch set up a solid header opportunity for defender Seth Walter, who missed over the crossbar.
Another promising chance for the Sea Gulls came in the final minute of the first half when Myers controlled a volley pass, took a touch with his right foot and hit the outside netting.
At the break, Catholic held a 5-3 shot advantage over the Gulls while also controlling possession.
Entering the second half, the Sea Gulls looked to their bench for some energy. Myers said the spark that the bench provided helped the team form a late comeback attempt.
“It’s tough coming in down 2-0, but our reaction from the bench was very positive,” Myers said.
Despite the bench providing a necessary spark, Catholic was still pressing as it started the half with an early shot that was deflected out of bounds by sliding goalkeeper Ryan Miller.
Miller, who was awarded the Capital Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week this Monday, made the save that lead to the Sea Gulls‘ first goal.
The save ignited a Salisbury attack downfield that allowed Myers to get into the goal box, draw a foul and be awarded a penalty kick.
Myers’ shot was blasted to the bottom left corner while the Catholic University goalie dove right. Salisbury was now on the board in the 53rd minute, still trailing 2-1.
The goal sparked the Salisbury offense to play more aggressively than it did the first half. The Gulls found some offensive success on the left side, which helped to free the middle for shot opportunities.
Possession seemed to be in Salisbury’s favor until the 67th minute, when Egan sprinted past four Salisbury defenders and aimed a shot lower right corner. He watched the ball ring off the right goal post and roll left corner.
Egan tallied his second score of the game.
Salisbury was in full-on attack mode from this point on, getting multiple scoring chances and limiting Catholic’s offensive possessions.
In the 83rd minute, a cross from Myers was headed into the top right corner by midfielder Matt Hawkins to shrink the margin to one.
Hargrove still had praise for his team’s effort despite the tough loss.
“I thought our response in the second half, generating 12 shots compared to three in the first, was phenomenal,” Hargrove said.
Miller played the full game in goal for the Sea Gulls. He tallied two saves while allowing three goals on five shots-on-goal.
Miller said the team needs to mentally prepare for the upcoming conference schedule.
“We need to take a look in the mirror and really come out Saturday and improve,” Miller said.
Salisbury will travel to Southern Virginia University (2-7) for its first Capital Athletic Conference game of the season on Saturday. The contest is slated to begin at 4:30 p.m.
By ALEX BOESMAN
Featured photo: Emma Reider image.