The No. 7 ranked Salisbury University women’s lacrosse team faced off against Lebanon Valley College in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. Salisbury secured its first tournament win of the 2019 campaign, 16-3.
The Sea Gulls (17-3) last stepped on the field at Sea Gull Stadium for the Capital Athletic Conference title game on May 4. Salisbury came up just short in that contest as York College of Pennsylvania took home the 13-11 victory.
Junior defender Kendall Bannan said that loss was a necessary evil of sorts for this Salisbury team. She said the loss helped spotlight some areas that needed improvement heading into the NCAA Tournament.
“The CAC Championship was unfortunate, but it did show us exactly where we need to work on our defense, how we need to work on our attack, how we need to adapt,” Bannan said. “I think that loss helped us improve and come out strong in the playoffs.”
Salisbury’s defense showed out in the matchup, holding the Flying Dutchmen (12-8) off the board until the 6:31 mark in the first half. The back line for the Sea Gulls also did not allow a shot for over 15 minutes of action.
Salisbury’s attack capitalized on the team’s strong defensive showing, jumping out to a 6-0 lead with just under seven minutes remaining in the first half. Sophomore attacker Emma Skoglund and junior defender Gianna Demato both notched two goals in the stretch, while sophomore attackers Lydia McNulty and Alexis Strobel both scored one.
The Dutchmen struggled to find their footing offensively at the start of the game, but they found a rhythm in the closing minutes of the first half. Senior midfielder Makenzie Kelley and freshman midfielder Brittany Hathaway tallied their lone goals of the contest, setting the score at 8-2 at the break.
The Gulls went on a 5-0 run to start the second half, which saw several new faces enter the game for Salisbury. Two of these were sophomore midfielder Bri Held and junior attacker Angelica Jensen, who both recorded two goals in the second frame.
Head coach Jim Nestor said he was happy with the team’s performance and enjoyed the opportunity to have more players seeing the field in an NCAA Tournament game.
“I thought it was a great game, and I thought we played really well,” Nestor said. “It was nice to be able to go deep on the bench and get a lot of players some time.”
Salisbury would allow just one goal in the second half while tallying eight of their own. Six Sea Gulls finished with two goals on the day.
Salisbury will now have the week to prepare for Colorado College, who will be making the trip to Sea Gull Stadium for the third round of NCAA action.
Nestor said the coaching staff had already watched film on both teams in anticipation of the next round. While allowing time for his players to rest, Nestor acknowledged some things that need improvement going into the next game.
“With these next six days, we’ll be getting a little rest,” Nestor said. “But mainly focusing on our defense and the different looks we’re going to probably look to throw at them; offensively, just looking to get a little more flow and rhythm.”
This year’s Sea Gull team is an experienced one, with many players who have NCAA Tournament experience. Bannan is one of these, having been to the NCAA Tournament in her first two seasons with SU.
But Bannan knows there are no guarantees in the “big dance.”
“We know it’s one-and-done. Any team can beat any other team on any given day,” Bannan said. “We’re gonna try to go as far as we can, and I think we have a good shot.”
By NICK LEWIS
Featured photo: SU women's lacrosse celebrates May 4 (Marshall Haas image).