A difficult out-of-conference schedule continued for the Sea Gulls women’s soccer team on Tuesday facing Virginia Wesleyan University (VWU).
The Marlins were SU’s second straight opponent that were in the NCAA Tournament last season, and another offensive force that would prove troublesome for Salisbury’s back line, though the weather would force both teams to wait through two lightning delays before the matchup.
Despite the challenge, the women’s squad had clearly learned from their previous game against Wheaton College and were able to take important steps forward in the midfield and defense.
The Marlins dominated time of possession for most of the game’s first 25 minutes. Despite this early adversity Salisbury faced, the Sea Gulls’ defense prevented VWU from scoring on four corner kicks and three shots on goal.
The precedent on defense had changed with more of an emphasis on a fluid formation. The Sea Gulls were able to maintain more possession through key midfielders that eased the pressure defensively.
SU sophomore goalkeeper Emma Hill was tested early and often by the Marlins. Hill made back-to-back saves off two Virginia Wesleyan corner kicks. The Marlins finally did score the first goal of the match with 13:37 left to go in the first half.
It was another corner kick that sealed the fate of the Sea Gulls, as sophomore midfielder Reina Araujo found herself on the receiving end of the corner, and after some commotion in the box, was able to knock the ball loose towards the middle. Sophomore forward Mia Meinhardt found herself with an open chance and found the back of the net for the lead.
The Sea Gulls looked to answer right back when senior midfielder Liz Fenton dribbled the ball down the field and had a shot on goal. However, the ball took an unlucky bounce off the crossbar and the opportunity did not pay off for SU.
“We’re learning our mistakes now,” SU junior forward Lydia Narum said. “[The starters and I] learned how we should’ve started the game like we played in the last 20 minutes, with that energy. We shouldn’t have waited until they scored two goals to bring that amount of energy into the game.”
Misfortune continued for Salisbury late in the half as the freshman attacker Carleigh Van Reenen went all the way to double the lead. An aggressive play from Hill in goal saw her crash toward the outside of the box to pressure Van Reenen, but a chip sent it over Hill and dribbling toward the net.
Defensive heroics ensued as sophomore defender Kayla Homeyer went flying into the net after she was barely able to clear the ball before it crossed the line. Little did Homeyer know that Van Reenen had not given up on the play and there was an open net goal for the Marlins.
The Sea Gulls were unable to capitalize on their opportunities in the first half. The action to start the second half was a lot more back-and-forth than in the first half. Salisbury’s defense was much improved in the second half though, not allowing a single goal on eight shots by the Marlins.
However, the Sea Gulls were also shut out in the second half and fell 2-0. SU women’s soccer Head Coach Kwame Lloyd did not see the weather as a factor.
“Obviously, you don’t have the full complement of time to warm up, but we didn’t let in any goals early, so you can’t say we weren’t ready to go,” Lloyd said, praising the SU backline for their play in the match.
Despite the struggles, there were glimpses of light as both Lloyd and Narum took notice of the end of the game and the battle that the forwards showed still trying to get onto the scoreboard with only minutes to go. As Lloyd tries to find an order up top, the potential for success is seen in both his starters and subs.
The Sea Gulls have now been shut out in back-to-back games as they will look toward future matches to break the losing stride.
“These last two losses are definitely going to be on all of our minds,” Narum said. “We have to start [the rest of our games from here on out] how we ended this game because we’re not okay with losing and we don’t want to start a losing streak when we have the ability to do really well this season.”
In their opening tournament last weekend, SU lost an all-conference midfielder in junior Dana Gordon, who was out again for the match against VWU. After having Gordon through the preseason, it is something that the squad will have to adjust to.
“You lose a player like Dana Gordon this past weekend, you kind of fear where you’re going to step in, but I thought the kids were stepping in really well,” Lloyd said.
Salisbury will next travel to the Washington & Lee Invitational this weekend to face Bridgewater College (Va.) on Saturday and the host school on Sunday. The Sea Gulls will look to get back over .500 before their next home match on Wednesday, Sept. 19 when they face Rutgers-Newark.
By CHRIS MACKOWIAK and BRANDON STARK
Sports editor and Staff writer
Featured photo: SU defender Jenna Beck (No. 2) passes the ball around a Wheaton (Ill.) forward. Sept. 1. (Emma Reider images).