Salisbury’s men’s soccer team squared off against the University of Mary Washington Eagles in its first home conference game. The Sea Gulls failed to rebound from a slow start, dropping their second of 10 consecutive conference games to wrap up the season.
Head coach Alex Hargrove said the team seemed sluggish from the beginning, which had them playing catch-up early in the game.
“This group has got to get themselves better prepared mentally heading into the match,” Hargrove said. “We started sleepy, and they punished us for it.”
Mary Washington wasted no time, as it scored in the first minute on a corner kick, courtesy of midfielder Jacob Lovinger. The shot trickled in through a flurry of commotion in front of the net.
The first 15 minutes of the match were largely controlled by Mary Washington, which led to some solid scoring chances. A Salisbury turnover in its own zone gave way to a shot by Mary Washington midfielder Idrissa Barrie, but his powerful strike swished harmlessly into the outside netting.
Forward Josh Woozley said that the early slump helped the Eagles (7-1-2, 2-0) find success early on.
“We were poor in the first 15 minutes. They were pressing a lot and getting in behind our lines,” Woozley said.
After the 15-minute mark, the Sea Gulls (6-3-1, 1-1) seemed ready to play as they strung together some aggressive runs and positive scoring chances.
Midfielder Quincy Tyler sent a left-footed cross into the box that was punched away, but the rebound led to more chances for the Sea Gulls. Woozley pursued a ball sent in from 20 yards out, but he arrived late and received a yellow card.
The Sea Gulls quickly got the ball back and threatened to score again as the forwards put pressure on the Mary Washington defense. The attack paid off when Mary Washington goalie Ken Kurtz fumbled the ball and Woozley stole it and touched it into the back left corner.
Salisbury had evened the score and gained some momentum just under 30 minutes into the contest.
Nearing halftime, defender Seth Walter found himself in the right place as a cross landed on his feet and a Mary Washington defender took him down, awarding Salisbury a penalty kick. Walter’s shot was blocked as he aimed middle-left, and Kurtz made the kick save.
Hargrove was not happy with the continued struggles from his team on penalty kicks this season.
“We need to start scoring on penalty kicks … our third miss on the season,” Hargrove said.
The game entered halftime tightly contested, with the shots favoring Mary Washington seven to five.
The Eagles started the second half like the first: fast and with lots of opportunities. Midfielder Gabriel Soriano helped spark those chances.
A Soriano pass found Barrie for a good shot on goal. Soon after, Soriano got a shot himself that went wide.
In the 48th minute, Soriano took a Mary Washington corner and delivered an assist to midfielder Kevin Conrad, who headed the ball in.
After several minutes of constant Mary Washington pressure, the Sea Gulls triggered a counterattack.
A backheel pass from forward George Fotiou gave fellow forward Dolph Hegewisch a clean shot from just outside 18 yards. The shot was saved, but the Sea Gulls found something that worked by using Fotiou on the right side.
They went to Fotiou again shortly after as he made a good run down the sideline with space to operate, but that chance was ended by the referee, who called him out of bounds.
Mary Washington was able to maintain possession throughout the remainder of the game to run the clock out and seal the 2-1 victory.
The Sea Gulls ended the game with a total of nine shots compared to Mary Washington’s 12.
Hargrove was critical of the defense after the loss.
“We got to defend better,” Hargrove said. “We’ve been losing games, and we can’t give up two set piece goals the way we did.”
Now two games into Capital Athletic Conference play, Hegewisch said the Sea Gulls will need to be locked in and prepared for the tough stretch of defenses ahead.
“We’re going to be playing against some really good defenses coming up the rest of the way,” Hegewisch said.
The Sea Gulls return to action on Saturday as they travel to face St. Mary’s College of Maryland. The contest is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
By ALEX BOESMAN
Featured photo: Julie Fillebrown image.