BY STEPHEN CHOTT
Rain poured down throughout the day, but nothing could cloud the Sea Gull spirit as the men’s soccer team won the Capitol Athletic Conference championship with a 2-0 victory against St. Mary’s Saturday afternoon.
The team came into the tournament as the number one seed, allowing them to celebrate their first championship victory since 2008 at home with the dedicated fans that came out and endured the weather.
As they have throughout the CAC tournament, the Sea Gulls got off to a great start early thanks to a penalty kick. Junior forward Leslie Umunna was able to place the free kick past the goalie to give the Gulls the advantage.
The conditions made it difficult, but the team was able to stop the St. Mary’s attack with its tough defense that they’ve played with throughout the year. With the shutout, senior goalkeeper Drew Staedeli recorded his tenth scoreless game of the year.
“Everybody knew their responsibilities, and everyone was with the team,” Staedeli said. “Everyone has given 100 percent in practice and that’s what’s got us here.”
In the Sea Gulls last game against Mary Washington, emotions got the best of the opposing players and red cards were handed out. The playoffs certainly carry a different atmosphere and emotions were high again today, as a NCAA playoff berth was at stake.
Emotions got out of hand for the Salisbury in the sixty-sixth minute when sophomore midfielder Kendrick Michael got tangled up with an opposing player and a fight was started. Michael and Zach Fontenot from St. Mary’s were given red cards and ejected from the game.
Only six minutes following the ejection, the Gulls got back on track when junior midfielder Brad Martinelli was able to work his way through the defense and found freshman back Josh Lord for his first goal of the season to give the team the insurance goal they needed to seal the game.
“It was a counter attack where Taylor Groginski was drawing two defenders. He found me open so I had plenty of time and space and my shot found its way to Josh Lord,” Martinelli said.
As the final minute ticked down, excitement built for the team that led to the players rushing the field in excitement as they were crowned CAC champions.
The Sea Gulls never lost a game in the CAC throughout the regular season, and the tournament win left them as the undisputed champions.
Senior captains Matt Greene, Staedeli and Groginski were presented with the CAC championship plaque, which they immediately shared with the rest of their team.
“I still can’t believe it. I haven’t had time for it to sink in yet. All the stars aligned right with (DiBartolo’s) last year and being a senior we wanted to work so hard. You’ve seen seniors in the past go through it and not win and we didn’t want that to be us this year,” Staedeli said.
The championship was the eighth for head coach Gerry DiBartolo, who is retiring after 34 seasons with the team.
“In the past we’ve had great runs during the regular season but we always seem to fall short to win it. Whether it was my last season or my first season it feels great to put that plaque up,” DiBartolo said.
The Sea Gulls next challenge will be in the NCAA tournament, where they claimed an automatic bid with the victory.