By Chris Mackowiak
The Salisbury University Maroon and Gold Club held their weekly Coaches Luncheon Thursday, but this week, SU head football coach Sherman Wood welcomed in several special guests.
Salisbury University President Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach joined the event to say a few kind words about SU Athletics, while also participating in a presentation. In a flashback to the first week of the football season, Dudley-Eshbach unveiled a plaque commemorating the opening touchdown at the brand new Sea Gull Stadium on Sept. 2.
In attendance alongside Wood was the student-athlete responsible for the touchdown: sophomore wide receiver Sean Rowland. In the opening game of the 2016 season, Rowland returned the opening kickoff against Albright College 92 yards for a touchdown. His kick return average alongside the score provided Rowland with the title of New Jersey Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week.
“That night is still a blur. I was just too excited,” Rowland said.
“I’m honestly humbled and thankful for that. That play meant so much more to everyone else because to me, I was just playing the game. Trying to do my very best. To everyone, it means so much for the stadium, the fans, the alumni that came out. I’m just thankful,” he continued.
Dudley-Eshbach presented the plaque to Rowland while also talking about the future expansions of the outdoor facilities for SU Athletics. Other than the nearly completed SU Softball Field and the soon-to-be-implemented upgrades of the baseball field and SU Soccer Complex, Dudley-Eshbach mentioned that Salisbury will soon have among the best if not the best outdoor facilities in all of Division III.
The SU President followed the statement by stating that plans and efforts are being made behind the scenes for a new field house in the future to replace the older Maggs Physical Activities Center.
Before Wood took the podium, SU softball head coach Margie Knight came to speak in another award presentation. Knight thanked Dudley-Eshbach for her support of SU Athletics alongside the planning and construction of the new SU Softball Field. Knight recounted a behind-the-scenes meeting with Dudley-Eshbach in which the softball coach said that the new stadium would be among the best in Division III.
“I was wrong. It’s gonna be the best in Division III,” Knight said, changing her mind after seeing the recent construction.
“I’m so excited to have the stadium. Even if it’s going to be for one season, I’m so excited to be playing on it,” senior softball outfielder Caitlin Lake said.
Lake joined her coach at the luncheon to accept her own award. The now-SU centerfielder won a spot on the Division III Academic All-American team. This is the first time this has occurred for Knight and the SU softball program. The award is a testament to Knight and the other coaches across SU Athletics as they support their athletes both academically and on the field.
“It’s not easy [to balance academics and softball]. I’m an education major and a lot of people think that being an education major is easy. I have a 3.96 GPA. It’s not as easy as everyone thinks. I have a job on campus. I have classes all the time. I’m a dual major. I go to practices with my friends. Having all of them with me and knowing that they all have my back and that I have their support really means a lot to me,” Lake said.
With her parents by her side, having travelled south from New Jersey for the event, Lake accepted the recognition for her accomplishment from Dudley-Eshbach and Knight.
Next, it became time for Wood to go through the typical proceedings.
After he fielded questions from local elementary school students and went through game highlights from the team’s 36-14 win over Kean University, Wood provided updates on his team headed into their road contest at Christopher Newport University (CNU) on Saturday.
Wood relayed that senior quarterback Ryan Jones is ready for the matchup. Jones left the Kean game early with an injury which Wood said was a “minor hip flexor.”
Also, junior punter Tim Steindl continues to be a ‘game-time decision’ as the starter recovers from a hip flexor injury that he suffered a few weeks ago in warmups at Rowan University. Wood told the audience that Steindl is “feeling much better.”
Overall, Coach Wood emphasized that the team is excited for the challenge presented at CNU this weekend. Salisbury will be heading to Newport News, Va. for Homecoming Weekend, something that will surely drive up the intensity of the game.
For Wood, the game takes on a personal element since he is a native of nearby Norfolk, Va.
“It’s not just Christopher Newport. I have family there. I even have friends who decided not to attend their own college homecoming to come to the Christopher Newport game,” Wood said, when asked about the rivalry by an elementary school student.
“This is a big game for us for many many reasons. Not just being first place in the conference, we want to maintain that. It is an emotional time. My mother is still there, my aunt who raised me. It’s emotional for me,” Wood said.
Surely Wood’s family and friends will be squawking for the Sea Gulls on Saturday with NJAC title implications on the line. The SU football team looks to take each challenge in stride for the remainder of the season as they defend their 2015 NJAC championship.
“We’ve had so many injuries. We’re all gonna play. Ryan Jones is gonna play. Hopefully, Tim will play. We have players that want to play. They may miss a day of practice or two, or play through it when they’re not supposed to. We’re trying to win. We’re gonna come out aggressive like it’s our Homecoming,” Rowland said.