By Jacob Stolle
What: Salisbury University field hockey hosts York College
When: Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 6pm
Where: Sea Gull Stadium
How to watch: Online via the Sea Gull Sports Network at http://www.suseagulls.com/
The Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) sees two semifinal match-ups on Nov. 2 at 6pm in the conference’s field hockey tournament. In Salisbury, the Sea Gulls (14-1, 6-0) play host to York College (13-5, 4-2), while in Newport News, Va., No. 2 Christopher Newport University (14-4, 4-2) faces the No. 3 University of Mary Washington (11-5, 4-2).
The Sea Gulls enter the CAC tournament as the No. 1 seed and favorite to win the conference for a fourth-straight year. Salisbury looks to win out through the conference tournament to host their region for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament, since they currently sit as the number two team in the national rankings just behind Messiah College, who hold Salisbury’s only loss.
No. 1 Salisbury University Sea Gulls (14-1, 6-0 CAC; First in CAC)
Winners of 10 games in a row, the Sea Gulls are slated with the task of defending their three consecutive conference championships, a mission that begins Wednesday against the Spartans. Last time these two faced off, Salisbury completed a resounding 6-2 victory, thanks to two goals apiece from senior forward Becca Rinaca, senior back Annah Brittingham, and junior forward Natalie Wilkinson.
The Sea Gulls’ offense is among the best in Division III, boasting an average of 4.4 goals per game, which ranks third in the country and first in the conference. Salisbury’s offense is led by a diverse attack, with play makers all over the field, including Rinaca and senior forward Abbey Shobe.
Shobe and Rinaca are at the center of Salisbury’s potent attack this season with 13 and 11 goals respectively. While they have had stellar senior seasons overall, they have hit a cold stretch as of late. After accounting for 20 goals in the first nine games of the season, they have combined for only four goals over the last six games.
When Salisbury played York on Oct. 12, the Sea Gulls’ offense scored six goals against the Spartans, but the SU defense also was stout by holding down York’s dynamic offensive star sophomore forward Lindsay Nye to only one shot in the entire contest.
If Salisbury aims to advance to the CAC championship game on Saturday, in hopes to gain a twentieth field hockey conference championship, they must focus on keying in on Nye and limiting her offensive production.
No. 4 York College Spartans (13-5, 4-2 CAC; Fourth in CAC)
The Spartans started off the 2016 campaign 10-2 before losing three of their final six games. In the first 12 games, Nye accounted for 16 goals, while in the last six, she only scored two. However, junior midfielder Ali Posey stepped up during that stretch, scoring six goals, including three in a 7-0 win over Frostburg State.
Nye and Posey finished the regular season as one of the top offensive duos in the CAC, combining for 31 goals and nine assists. York’s offense will look to score early and often by running the game through their two offensive stars.
York’s defense has struggled throughout the season, allowing three or more goals in a game five times, compared to Salisbury only allowing three goals in a game once. Sophomore goalie Eva Hauptle will need to have a strong game against the Salisbury offense in order for her team to pull off a conference upset on the road.
Hauptle, who was named CAC defensive player of the week on Sept. 19, has struggled since earning that honor, holding a goals against average (GAA) of 1.76 overall and 2.19 in CAC play. However, Hauptle has had two consecutive shutouts and will try to carry the momentum forward into Wednesday’s match-up against Salisbury.
The winner of the Salisbury vs. York semifinal will play the winner of the game between Christopher Newport and Mary Washington on Saturday for the CAC championship. If Salisbury advances to the championship game, they would host the contest.
Visit The Flyer online after the game Wednesday for a recap of the conference semifinal from staff writer Zach Gilleland.