BY STEPHEN CHOTT
Several teams across the country use the motto “defense first” or some variation of that when it comes to explaining what’s most important for winning. The Salisbury men’s soccer team is no different, and relies on a strong defense with the play of its strong goalie.
That is certainly the case with senior Drew Staedeli in the net for the Sea Gulls, having one of the best seasons of any goalie in the Capital Athletic Conference so far.
The Gulls have gotten off to a good start this year due in part to the play of their defense. They’ve only allowed three goals in their past six games, a defense led by keeper Staedeli.
He is ranked third in the conference in total saves, first in save percentage and second in total goals against and goals allowed percentage. Those stats are impressive for the senior goalkeeper, but the most important thing Staedeli focuses on are the numbers in the win column.
“I like to contribute to my team and the stats come when you do well. I try not to pay attention to stats much because team winning is most important,” Staedeli said.
That maturity comes in part from Staedeli getting experience throughout his career.
His first opportunity came his sophomore year when he earned his first start in the net. Although it was his first year playing, Staedeli had a solid season and recorded 11 shutouts to give the Sea Gulls a 18-4 record. The same success followed Staedeli in his junior year where he recorded 10 shutouts and 61 saves.
Now in his fourth and final season, the goalie only has one goal: winning his conference.
“The one thing I still want to do is win a CAC. It’s slipped past us the last couple of years and it’s something I want badly,” Staedeli said.
Salisbury is already off to a good start on the road to winning the CAC as they have won their first three games in the conference. Staedeli’s presence has already been felt in the matchups with the team only allowing one goal in conference play so far.
“He’s been huge,” junior midfielder Tyler Andrus said. “He’s been leading us since the preseason and has had huge stops in every game and keeps us in every game.”
Being a four-year player, Staedeli has become role model for other goalies and SU players.
“When I first came in there were older guys who showed us the ropes and helped us out,” Staedeli said. “So I’m doing the same thing and making sure (the younger guys) know how the team runs and that we’re all together in this. It doesn’t matter who starts or who plays we’re all in this as a team.”
Along with being a vocal leader, he’s led the way with his work ethic which Sea Gulls’ head coach Gerry DiBartolo says has been the reason Staedeli was able to make such a big jump in his sophomore year and the years that followed.
“The improvements from his freshman year to now are attributable to his hard work,” DiBartolo said.
Staedeli also points to the knowledge and influence his coaches have shown him over the years as another reason he has developed into one of the top goalies in the CAC.
For the past three seasons, goalie coach Josh Scotton helped Staedeli before leaving last fall. Assistant Coach Paul Zimmerman now fills his spot and looks to continue developing Salisbury’s goalies.
“They’re the ones who focus the most on us while the other players are doing their drills, we have specific goalie drills to stay in shape and keep us at the highest level. Coaches always make a huge impact on how we play,” Staedeli said.
He believes the comradery between the players, and the respect for the coaches is one of the reasons he loves playing for SU and will miss when he graduates.
His favorite moment as a Sea Gull came this season when DiBartolo registered his 400th career win.
“Being part of Coach DiBartolo’s 400th win was an incredible moment. Having him reach an incredible milestone and being able to say we contributed to that was a very memorable experience,” Staedeli said.
With the ending of the season quickly approaching, Staedeli’s career as a Sea Gull is coming to a close.
“I don’t want to think about that,” Staedeli said. “Everything that’s built up these last four years, I see it as a huge accomplishment. I love my team and I love going out there with them so the last game will be tough.”
Salisbury is a favorite to reenter the CAC tournament once again, where Staedeli will have one final chance to achieve his goal, and leave a legacy that will last for decades.