By Chris Mackowiak
In our second edition of team report cards, I analyze the SU women’s soccer 2016 season that ended with a loss to St. Mary’s in the first round of the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Tournament. Below I hand out some individual awards and analyze the past season while also looking ahead to 2017.
Freshman of the Year: No. 7 forward Lydia Narum
The freshman winner came down to the most playing time and effectiveness on the field. That was Narum. As a freshman, the forward started 13 matches for SU, while also appearing in all 17 games. Over the course of the season, Narum posted a stat line of two goals and one assist through 15 shots and a shot on goal percentage of 40.
While the offense did struggle at times this season, Narum was able to stretch the wide areas of Salisbury’s diamond formation in order to propel forwards up ahead. At times, she also came out of the back similar to the strategy used with senior defender Lindsey Andonian. With Andonian graduating, look for Narum to be used in a similar capacity by Head Coach Kwame Lloyd in 2017. The Sea Gulls are at their best when they are able to launch the full backs downfield.
Senior of the Year: No. 17 mid. Jenny Gavigan & No. 26 mid. Lauren Minghenelli
With many of the seniors finding places in the midfield this season, it was easy to pick the core to choose from, but not so much an individual player. I went with co-winners this time around due to the impact of both Minghenelli and Gavigan. The largest impact the two had this season was taking over a lot of the heavy load when fellow senior midfielder Jayne Pinsky was out with an injury for a few games.
Both players started in all matches for SU this season and combined for four goals and four assists. Minghenelli was crucial in final midfield line of the diamond formation by protecting the defense from becoming exposed at certain points. Gavigan was more involved up field at times and was crucial in chemistry through the midfield. Despite a lack of connection between the midfield and offense at certain points this season, by the end, the squad was powerful.
Most Improved Player: No. 24 senior full back Carli Dixon
Dixon came into her senior campaign following a junior year where she started in one game but appeared in all others. This season the defender appeared in all matches, starting in 14. Her improvement came with a much larger role on the team in 2016. She was strong and consistent on the wide flanks backing up the midfield when they needed it.
The defense became the backbone and strength for SU over the course of the season, and Dixon was definitely a piece in the puzzle. She even added in a goal during the season. It was tough to pick a player as most improved with so many seeing similar playing time and roles as last season, but Dixon stood out on a defensive line that really needed her.
Defensive Player of the Year: No. 30 junior center back Rachel Anderson
With a lack of offense through much of the season as the team tried to find their identity, the defense was put in the spotlight to halt the opposition and create low-scoring affairs. Anderson’s physical and consistent play powered that goal this season. Starting in all 17 games, the junior center back held strong against some of the top competition that the CAC threw at the Sea Gulls.
In the first week of the season, Anderson received CAC Defensive Player of the Week honors and has been one of the top center backs in the conference since then. Despite her physical play, she only received one yellow card all season, displaying poise and control in tough situations.
In a defensive award, there is also a supporting cast. Junior goalkeeper Hope Knussman flew in with diving, miraculous saves over the course of the season. Opposite to Anderson, junior center back Jamie Tacka also put in the hard work to stop the opposing attackers. The positive is that all three of these key SU players return for their senior campaign in 2017.
Anderson is on the team alongside her twin sister and SU forward Ellen Anderson. They share special bond today on and off the field.
Offensive Player of the Year and MVP: No. 10 junior forward Ruthie Lucas
Whenever the team needed a spark, Lucas always seemed to be there this season. She ended her junior campaign with a team-leading six goals and three assists, including two game-winning goals. Lucas played in 16 of the 17 matches including 15 starts.
What really spoke out was her play against Wesley College in the final game of the season. Watching the team, it finally felt as though Salisbury was healthy and everyone was able to fit their own niche. While Lucas played the forward spot up top most of the season, she was not able to see the support she needed, which she dealt with by taking on defensive double teams nearly every game.
In the Wesley match, Lucas was able to drop back at certain points into a center attacking midfielder role and let sophomore forward Jenna Taylor overlap her on runs, leading to two goals for Taylor in the match. What Lucas does best is not so much score goals, but instead run the offense on the field. She is a great distributor of the ball to her teammates. With Lucas entering her senior year, it will be fun to watch the offense transform in 2017.
2016 Season Takeaway: Even with expectations, but need to improve in 2017
With not much traction being made in the CAC regular season, it would be easy to write this season off as a disappointment considering that the team fell in the CAC first round for another season. But out on the field, I continually saw progress.
It was frustrating at times for fans to take in home losses and unique formations, but at the end of the day, it will help the 2017 squad. Salisbury was already in deep trouble losing their touch when Pinsky was ruled out multiple games with an injury. Many senior midfielders had to step up, and they responded well. The problem is that the injury occurred in the CAC stretch of the Sea Gulls’ schedule.
While Coach Lloyd’s diamond formation caused worries with the offense through much of the season, once the team clicked with it, they were firing on all cylinders. That match occurred against Wesley. Even in the first round of the CAC Tournament, the Sea Gulls put up a fight against a much better team in St. Mary’s and forced the Seahawks to score a goal to win in the final 10 minutes of play.
Now looking ahead into 2017, Salisbury loses much talent in the midfield, but they do return plenty to love in the attacking and defensive areas of the pitch. The big three on defense (Knussman, Anderson, and Tacka) all return to lead a veteran and very talented defensive unit.
Of course on offense, Lucas returns to lead the front alongside Taylor, who should see a lot more action and chances next year. Freshman Emma Faust was another player that could have easily won Freshman of the Year. Faust returns alongside Narum to strengthen the midfield.
With the strong momentum to end the 2016 season, hopes will be higher headed into 2017. That will be a season that needs better results, but SU should have the talent and depth to get it done.
Check out previous 2016 fall team report cards below: