Fans of Salisbury University women’s lacrosse recognize 2013 as arguably the best year in program history.
The Sea Gulls won the 2013 Division III National Championship over Trinity College, 12-5. They finished the campaign with an unblemished 23-0 record after winning all 16 regular season competitions.
Now eight years later, Salisbury has completed their first undefeated regular season since 2013. In a season just over a year removed from COVID-19, the team played just three less regular-season competitions.
Head coach Jim Nestor said he is hardly focused on the record. Instead, his attention lies in the number of games the team has been able to play due to the university's hard work.
“When you look at other schools and what they are able to do or not to do, we are in a very fortunate situation,” Nestor said. “We are very appreciative of our administration and happy that we have been able to play this many games.”
Now, the team is preparing for its first Coast-to-Coast Athletic Conference tournament. They hold the top seed and will host fourth-ranked St. Mary’s College of Maryland on Wednesday.
The conference rivals last faced on April 17 in a battle that needed extra time to decide a victor. The maroon and gold nabbed a 14-13 victory in overtime to continue the undefeated season.
Senior attacker Alexis Strobel is one of the leaders for the Salisbury attack. She currently ranks second in program history in career assists and eighth in career points.
Strobel said the feedback she has gotten since her first day on campus has helped her grow into her role on the attack today.
“Since freshman year, I’ve had a great group of girls that I’ve always looked up to and taken advice from,” Strobel said. “I’ve always gotten constructive criticism and I love getting that every single year, even today.”
Strobel said she has been waiting to return to postseason competition since 2019, when the team reached the National Championship but fell to Middlebury.
“I’m so excited to get back at it,” Strobel said. “I think we are perfectly capable of handling any pressure that comes our way, offensively or defensively.”
Senior defender Carrie Hesen serves a similar leadership role on the Sea Gull back line. She currently leads the team in draw controls and caused turnovers.
Hesen said she has full confidence in the team’s ability to ‘conquer’ any team they may face, in the C2C tournament and beyond.
“We are a family, no matter what … we have this word, conquer,” Hesen said. “Basically, we know we can conquer the expected, the unexpected, the unknowns and anything else.”
Nestor echoed Hesen’s statement, saying the conference is deep this season so the team must be ready for any opponent.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” Nestor said. “We are going in with the mentality that we have to play our ‘A’ game, because the parity within our conference this year is even stronger than in the past.”
Salisbury holds the top scoring defense in the C2C. As of the end of the regular season, the Gulls boast an 8.56 goals-against average.
Hesen said the strong presence defensively has been a driving force in the team’s success this year.
“It comes down to working as a unit,” Hesen said. “Defense wins championships, and we know we need to communicate, work as a team and make our attack better.”
The other side of the bracket will feature a matchup between the second-ranked Eagles of Mary Washington and the third-seeded Captains of Christopher Newport.
Both games will take place on Wednesday and the championship game is scheduled to take place on Saturday. Salisbury's semifinal game is slated to begin at 4 p.m.
By NICK LEWIS
Photo courtesy of Brad Boardman.