On July 21, 2020 the Capital Athletic Conference announced the suspension of all Conference championships for the fall of 2020. As a result, Salisbury University chose to suspend all fall CAC sponsored sports for the season.
This impacted field hockey, volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s cross country. Seven days later, the New Jersey Athletic Conference suspended all fall competitions, postponing the season for SU football.
SU’s women’s soccer team boasted its best season since 2015 last fall. Their season came to an end last season with a 2-1 CAC semifinals loss to York University.
Senior midfielder Brooke Rossiter came into this year following an eight-goal season for the maroon and gold, tied for the team lead.
The Sparta, New Jersey native is one of five seniors on the women’s soccer team to see their final season at Salisbury postponed.
Rossiter said she was looking forward to running it back for one more season with her team.
“We were obviously heart broken, because it’s our senior year,” Rossiter said. “I think we really thought that we finally had this team ready to win the CAC and we truly believe we would have won it this year.”
Many student-athletes across the country are dealing with significant changes to the college life they are used to.
Rossiter said the disruption to this year compared to years prior has required lots of adjustment.
“This semester is definitely a really big struggle for me,” Rossiter said. “I’m so used to having a routine with soccer, now I don’t have that.”
Rossiter remained optimistic after Salisbury initially suspended sports in the spring that athletics would be back on in time for fall. Rossiter felt that the fall season was far enough away from March for the situation to improve.
However, after seeing other schools postponing sports, the writing was on the wall of Salisbury following suit.
“Me and my roommates and most of my team kind of expected it from the get-go and we honestly wanted to [play] and we had a false sense of hope, but we kind of figured it would be hard to have a season,” Rossiter said.
Despite not having the chance to compete this fall, the close bond Rossiter shares with her teammates has helped her deal with this new reality.
“Our team is very close,” Rossiter said. “I’ve never been on a team that I’ve had relationships like this much. We’re basically a family on this team.”
The Salisbury football team finished the 2019-20 season with an 11-1 record and their second NJAC title in five years of affiliate membership. Leading the way for the Sea Gull offense last season was junior quarterback Jack Lanham.
The Prince Frederick native led the Sea Gulls in passing yards, passing touchdowns and rushing yards in his twelve starts.
In his free time, Lanham said he has worked on his schoolwork, hung out with his roommates and worked out to stay in-shape. Lanham said he is trying to stay focused on improvement.
“I’m just trying to get one percent better every day,” Lanham said.
After Lanham saw other conferences making the decision to postpone or cancel their fall sports seasons, he was less than surprised when Salisbury broke the news.
“By the time they announced it, I was not really surprised because I had seen other conferences across the country make the same decisions, especially Division I schools doing it,” Lanham said. “I was hoping it wouldn’t happen, but I was prepared for it.”
Lanham said that he was most looking forward to leading the Sea Gulls to another conference championship this season.
With the plan for the return to play for fall sports still up in the air, Lanham remains focused on staying in shape in hopes of the fall season being played in the spring.
“It’s super disappointing, but I don’t want to dwell on things that I can’t control,” Lanham said. “If it’s out of my control, I let it be. You just got to keep moving forward and staying positive.”
Salisbury field hockey had claimed back-to-back CAC championships prior to the 2020-21 season. They also secured a spot in the NCAA Semifinals last year.
One of the key contributors to Salisbury’s success from a season ago was current junior forward McKenzie Mitchell.
Mitchell led the Sea Gulls with 12 goals scored. Like Rossiter and Lanham, Mitchell and her teammates were optimistic they would be able to play this year.
The news of the season being postponed upset the team after all of their hard work during the spring and summer, but Mitchell is grateful that her and the team can still share the field a few times a week.
“At first, we were all upset, the whole team was upset, it’s just hard when you and the girls who worked so hard [in the] spring and then over the summer just for it to be [suspended,]” Mitchell said. “We’re very fortunate that we at least get to go out there and play with the stick and ball.”
Mitchell sees a bright side to the postponement of her junior season with the possibility of playing in the spring.
She feels the practices in the meantime will help the team gel and prepare the Sea Gulls to make a run at bringing another national championship home to Salisbury, if they are able to play in the spring.
“I’m just like 'Okay, this gives us a couple more months to get ready for possibly a season in the spring so we can win the national championship,' so I’m not really taking this as a bad thing,” Mitchell said.
By BRANDON STARK
Featured image from Sports Information.