The first meeting between Salisbury and St. Mary’s College of Maryland this season resulted in a 2-1 Seahawk victory. Three cards were given in the game, including a red card to Salisbury defender Seth Walter.
Coming into Saturday, the second meeting between these two Capital Athletic Conference teams was going to be a physical battle to the end.
The rematch did not lack excitement or physicality as Salisbury claimed a 2-1 thriller over St. Mary’s in a game that needed overtime to decide a winner.
Junior defender Luke Ahalt said the most physical teams in the CAC tend to be the most successful.
“When you get into these Division III games, especially in our conference, whoever the more physical team is [is] normally going to win,” Ahalt said.
In the first five minutes, it seemed like the Seahawks (9-5-1, 3-4 CAC) were going to get the better of their opponent, as they had constant pressure on the Sea Gulls through the first five minutes.
The Seahawk pressure eventually led to the opening goal of the game as forward Josh McRobbie scored from a cross by midfielder Anoi Hindle in the third minute of the match.
Sophomore forward Cullen Myers said the team got off to a slow start, and the Seahawks took advantage.
“In the first half, we were getting outworked, and in any CAC game, it is going to be super physical,” Myers said.
While the Seahawks controlled the beginning of the game, the opening goal sparked some energy for the Sea Gulls (8-6-1, 3-4 CAC) into being more physical and aggressive both offensively and defensively.
Head coach Alex Hargrove said the team was doing what needed to be done defensively, but it needed to improve in transition.
“We needed to be more aggressive in moments of transition,” Hargrove said. “We were disciplined defensively, but when we won the ball, there were no opportunities to make forward passes.”
Salisbury bounced back from its slow start and got the ball rolling offensively as it finished with six shots in the first half, two more than St. Mary’s in the opening period.
Despite trailing 1-0 at the half, Salisbury flipped the momentum and was out-hustling its CAC foe by winning more 50-50 balls and staying aggressive in all phases of the game.
Going into the second half, Hargrove said the main thing in mind was a goal to even the score, and it had to start in transition.
“We need to commit to ourselves in those transition moments, continue making forward passes putting their backs under pressure, and good things were going to happen,” Hargrove said.
Good things certainly did happen for Salisbury. In the 56th minute, Myers found Ahalt in the box with a cross, and Ahalt slipped it past St. Mary’s keeper Patrick Paolini, knotting the contest up at 1-1.
Ahalt said the goal was a relief for the Sea Gull attack that had struggled to get good looks on goal to that point in the game.
“It really helped our confidence. As a team, we struggled creating really good chances sometimes, but we capitalized on their mistake, and it was huge for us,” Ahalt said.
The final thirty minutes went back-and-forth as both teams went on runs trying to create the winning goal for their side. Salisbury edged out the lead in shots with its nine to four for St. Mary’s.
While both sides had numerous chances to seal the game, each team’s defense was able to hold off the opposing attack. Salisbury goalie Gabe Dunn made five saves, while Paolini made six saves in the contest.
Neither side could pull away in regulation, leading the teams into overtime. This was the second overtime contest of the season for both the Seahawks and the Sea Gulls.
Salisbury was able to start the overtime period quickly by putting the pressure on St. Mary’s, and within three minutes, Salisbury was able to take advantage of the chances it received.
With a cross into the box in the 92nd minute by sophomore midfielder John Ford, senior midfielder Ryan Spadin was able to rise up and meet the ball with a header that ultimately found the back of the net, giving Salisbury the golden goal and the victory.
The aggression and competitiveness between these two conference rivals was shown throughout the game, as there ended up being a total of twenty-nine fouls, twenty by Salisbury and nine by St. Mary’s.
Salisbury fought to come back down from a goal for most of the game, and getting the victory had a significant impact on the CAC standings. Salisbury started conference play going 1-4 with four straight losses, but it has since tallied back-to-back wins over York College and now St. Mary’s.
Salisbury still sits in the fifth spot in the CAC standings, but it now holds the same conference record as the Seahawks. Christopher Newport University still holds the top spot, followed by the University of Mary Washington and York College.
The Sea Gulls will have a chance to shake up the standings on Wednesday when they travel to face Mary Washington for a 3:30 p.m. contest.
Myers said that going into that match, Salisbury needs to be at its absolute best.
“We cannot have slow starts, as it has been a problem all year giving up a goal in the first fifteen minutes,” Myers said.
The Sea Gulls know the importance of this game, as a win could not only move them into a tie with York College for the third spot, it could also drop Mary Washington in the standings with just three games remaining on the year.
Ahalt said that teams like Mary Washington will not allow the Sea Gulls back into a game after a slow start.
“If we want to beat good teams, then we need to play good for 90 minutes,” Ahalt said. “Good teams are not going to let you switch off and not make you pay.”
By TYLER SMITH
Featured photo: Emma Reider image.