The Salisbury University men’s soccer team leaned on its defense again to help edge it past Virginia Wesleyan University on Saturday afternoon.
Head coach Alex Hargrove was pleased with the defensive effort and performance that he saw from his team in the win.
“It’s our first shutout of the season, and in terms of our defensive performance, it was fantastic front to back,” Hargrove said.
In the beginning of the game, the Sea Gulls (5-1) attacked the left sideline with three quick runs from senior Quincy Tyler. His efforts did not end in goals, but the pressure in quick succession was valuable in keeping Virginia Wesleyan on its heels.
After jockeying for possession at midfield, the Sea Gulls began to turn up the attack at the 34-minute mark. Junior forward Kevin Eriksen eyed the goal from straight on, but missed over the crossbar.
Salisbury had one more scoring chance before going into half.
The opportunity came off a steal from junior defender Matt Mackenzie, who passed it to forward Dylan Parks. Parks crossed it to defender Seth Walter, who put the ball in the middle of the goal box for forward Josh Woozely to finish.
The shot was turned away, but momentum seemed to build off the opportunity despite time running out on the first half.
Going into the break, Salisbury had seven shots to Virginia Wesleyan’s three, but Hargrove said there was still more work to be done.
“In the first half, we were a little slow to connect through midfield and switch out to the other side,” Hargrove said.
Two minutes into the second half, junior Dolph Hegewisch lined up a shot. It was deflected, and senior Ryan Spadin tried to send the rebound to the back of the net, but his shot was saved.
At the 52-minute mark, a run by Sea Gull defender Alex Eiben drew a lot of contact from a Virginia Wesleyan defender with no call. The play led to the Wesleyan defender getting injured.
At the same time, on the opposite side of the field, Salisbury goalie Ashton Carey also went down with an injury. This forced freshman goalie Ryan Miller into the game.
After the injury delay, Spadin raced down the field and got in scoring position, where he left it for Woozely. Before Woozely could get a clean look, he was fouled in the box, leading to a penalty kick.
Dolph Hegewisch, who leads the Sea Gulls in points, took the penalty kick. He aimed middle left, but was denied by Marlin goalie Griffin Potter.
Salisbury got the rebound, but could not capitalize, and a foul call ended its scoring chance.
After the penalty, Virginia Wesleyan put together a solid offensive possession. Forward Girma Baker sprinted past his defender and made a nice move past another, but his lack of angle ended the chance.
A second chance came in the 71-minute mark from forward Kevin Prophet, who took a touch off a volley to get in front of his defender, leaving him one-on-one with the freshman goalie.
Miller sprinted toward Prophet and stuck his right leg out, spoiling the best scoring opportunity seen by either team.
Five minutes later, Salisbury would reward its freshman goalie’s effort with the lone score of the contest. Quincy Tyler ripped a low cross over to freshman forward George Fotiou, who capitalized on the scoring chance.
Fotiou credited the setup from his teammate for his ability to notch the game-winning score.
“Quincy made a great run down the line, and I floated off towards the top of the box, he laid it off for me and I just put my laces through it and beat the keeper,” Fotiou said.
The Sea Gull defense was able to hold strong for the remainder of the game to secure the win. Miller believes communication has been the key to helping the defense play so well.
“It starts with communication in the back … a lot of guys are comfortable with each other now and building more confidence,” Miller said.
The Sea Gulls will look to continue their win streak next Saturday, when they travel to face Messiah College at 7 p.m.
By ALEX BOESMAN
Featured photos: Brendan Link images.