By Zach Gilleland
The top-seeded Salisbury University field hockey team is now one win away from their fourth-consecutive Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) championship after defeating York College 5-0 Wednesday night.
The Sea Gulls (15-1, 6-0) came into the game as the hottest team in the CAC, being winners of 10-straight games. They faced a Spartan team that features the CAC’s top goal scorer: sophomore midfielder Lindsay Nye. York (13-6, 4-2) defeated St. Mary’s in the first round to advance into today’s matchup.
A motif for this season, Salisbury was able to control the ball on offense for much of the first half. The chances were there, but the Sea Gulls were unable to get an early goal to build off of.
The Salisbury offense has found ways to get the ball past York junior goalkeeper Eve Hauptle, but could not break through the last line of defense. A shot by senior midfielder Abbey Shobe beat Hauptle and almost reached the edge of the cage, but a flurry of Spartan defenders pounced on the ball, keeping the game scoreless at halftime.
The Sea Gulls were unable to capitalize off of five penalty corners. Salisbury fired 12 shots in the first half, with none of them finding the back of the cage.
“We weren’t taking shots fast enough in the first half,” SU head coach Dawn Chamberlin said. “We weren’t following up on our shots. [York’s] goalie was giving a lot of rebounds, and we weren’t there to put it back in and I think we were just playing with the ball a little too much.”
Salisbury seemed to be in trouble early in the second half. Four minutes in, a shot by York senior forward Autumn Mallory beat Sea Gull junior goalkeeper Tressie Windsor to give the Spartans the lead.
But the goal was waved off by the referees, keeping the game scoreless and giving the Sea Gulls a chance to build momentum.
The non-goal turned the tide toward Salisbury and in the 42-minute mark a long pass by senior midfielder Hannah Miller found sophomore midfielder Kristen Yingling. Yingling’s shot beat Hauptle low and right, giving the Sea Gulls their first goal of the game.
“Hannah and I had a combination in the first half and it barely didn’t go through,” Yingling said. “I knew this time that I was wide open and I could see us scoring; we needed a goal and I took initiative.”
Yingling’s goal sparked the Salisbury offense, producing a domino effect. The Sea Gulls continued to fire shot after shot, with junior forward Natalie Wilkinson scoring six minutes later on a hard pass by Yingling.
In the 52-minute mark Shobe, on a breakaway, found senior forward Becca Rinaca. Rinaca could not find anything on the right side, instead turning to her backhand and firing a laser into the cage for the Sea Gulls’ third goal of the game.
The offense added two more goals late, with Shobe and freshman forward Tara Daddio scoring to give Salisbury a 5-0 victory.
A more aggressive Sea Gull offense than in the first half, Salisbury scored all five of its goals in the second half and tallied 21 shots.
“We started getting [ourselves] together,” Yingling said. “We were doing our in-and-out passing that we do in practice, we were getting open more, we were talking more, communication was really good in the second half and we were replacing when we needed to replace.”
Led by Windsor, the Salisbury defense was strong all night. The York offense fired only three shots throughout the game. The defense kept the ball out of the box, surrendering only one penalty corner.
“Our defense has been very strong all year and we just play really good, solid team defense,” Chamberlin said. “We stepped up when we needed to, we denied [York] opportunities to touch the ball and when they did get a run we were able to break it up. They just did a nice job stepping up; the whole team did very well, especially in the second half.”
The Sea Gulls will now face third-seeded Mary Washington on Saturday. The Eagles advance to the championship after a 3-2 overtime win on the road at second-seeded Christopher Newport. Salisbury defeated Mary Washington 6-1 earlier this season and 2-1 in the CAC championship game last season.
“We played with all of our heart and, knowing that we did that and won 5-0, we can do it again,” Yingling said.