BY CHARLES MILLER
After winning the first four games of the season, and tallying a 7-1 record mid-way through March, the Salisbury women’s lacrosse team is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
A team that has relied on leadership in so many past years, the 2016 squad is seeing a number of underclassmen step up and take on bigger roles throughout the season.
With a mix of youth and experience, Salisbury has generated a successful start to the season.
“We always start out pretty strong,” junior midfielder Gabbi Nieves said. “We have to play a lot of hard teams every year, and we always find a way of coming out on top.”
The Sea Gulls showed their focus by defeating No. 8 York College three days after their first loss of the season.
The offense starts with senior attack Megan Wallenhorst, who is second on the team in scoring with 12 goals already this season. Her ability to lead has produced many wins and multiple points when games have been close, but her skill and knowledge helps make her a nightmare for opposing defenses.
“Megan has a high lacrosse IQ when it comes to how to read defenses,” Sea Gulls head coach Jim Nestor said. “She leads the offense by having the ball in her stick.”
The leadership Wallenhorst has displayed has helped players like Nieves step up and put points on the board for the Gulls. Nieves is the current leader on the team in goals scored with 13 this season.
“Gabbi Nieves has been doing a great job dodging from the top and creating a lot of offense,” Nestor said, “She has her hand in everything from feeds and assists to finishing goals. She has taken a true leadership role this year.”
Wallenhorst’s ability to distribute knowledge both on and off the field can be understood at all levels, especially from the new players on the team.
Freshman attack Gabrielle Mongno, as well as other first-year players are gaining valuable experience in their rookie year with the guidance from leaders on the team.
“I look for Megan to feed me (the ball),” Mongno said. “She is one of the best feeders on the team and holds most of the assists.”
Despite being a freshman, Mongno is third on the team in goals with 11 goals, with seven other freshman and sophomores combining for 29 of the team’s 81 total goals.
“(Mongno) does a great job in stepping up and having confidence in her ability,” Nestor said. “Mongno, on the inside makes really smart cuts and when she is getting those feeds she is capitalizing.”
The early success has helped boost the confidence levels of the younger players, but it has also allowed them to grow their chemistry that is pivotal to have on any organized sports team.
“Scoring goals in key games has helped,” Mongno said. “Overall it is a team effort that wins games.”
Even in the three years she has played, Nieves sees 2016 as one of the more cohesive units she’s played with.
“In the past two seasons, this is the closest we have been, we mesh a lot better and it shows on the field,” she said.
With the leadership from Wallenhorst and other upperclassmen, the evolution and development of the new players on the team have allowed Salisbury to form a level of comfortability that has helped them achieve success.
Figuring out “the basic things” and working hard in practice have given the women’s lacrosse team the momentum they need going into the second half of the season.
“We always stress fundamentals making sure we are doing the basic things right,” Nestor said. “As long as we feel that we are improving in practice it gives us the best chance on game day.”
A mix of leadership, youth and coaching result in the success the team has endured so far. With upperclassmen sharing their knowledge, and new faces stepping up and contributing to the team, the women’s lacrosse team has the capability to be fighting for the title once again in May.