By Brad Kelly
The fifth-ranked Salisbury women’s lacrosse team (1-0) used a nine-goal second half to pull away from the Stevenson University Mustangs (0-1) to win their 2017 season opener, 16-9. The win brings the Sea Gulls to 13-2 at Sea Gull Stadium over the last two years and jump-starts their quest for another Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) crown.
Salisbury jumped out to an early 3-0 lead not even 11 minutes into the game. The Gulls’ had no issue getting free rushers to the net early. However, Stevenson countered with their own 3-0 surge to tie things up near the halfway mark of the first half.
The Gulls’ upperclassmen saw a quick end to that, though, securing a 7-4 lead going into halftime after two goal performances from junior attacker Dana King and junior midfielder Allison Hynson in the first half. Salisbury’s offensive unit played aggressively in the early going, firing 19 shots on goal thanks to winning both the draw control and the ground battle over the Mustangs.
While Stevenson kept the score close, the Gulls unloaded a five-goal barrage over the first nine minutes of the second half, essentially putting the game out of reach as Salisbury would get out to an eighth goal over the latter part of the game.
During the run, junior attacker Kristen Murphy, sophomore attacker Lindsey Wagner, and senior midfielder Gabbi Nieves all contributed with two goals each. Nieves, who led the team with 41 goals in 2016 and was named a CAC All-American, leads the team’s offense and was excited by what she saw.
“I am impressed with the talent that we have on this team and the way the freshmen played when they got in,” Nieves said. “We forced a lot of turnovers and created quality offensive chances.”
The Gull’s defense is anchored by junior goalie Gianna Falcon, who made five saves on 12 shots. Salisbury created 16 turnovers on the day, led by senior defensemen Kayla Miller and Kieran Kelleher who both created three turnovers themselves.
King, Murphy and Nieves led the Salisbury offensive effort with three goals apiece. King also chipped in two assists, which tied for the team-high. The Mustangs centered their offensive attack around senior attacker Brady Heher, who had three goals on five shots.
If Salisbury captures the CAC crown this season, it would mark their fifthteenth straight season of doing so. Expectations are higher than ever for the top-ranked Gulls, whose postseason run was ended in a heart-wrenching overtime loss to Franklin & Marshall in overtime last season. But, managing those expectations is nothing new for the Gulls’ players.
“Expectations for Salisbury lacrosse are always high,” Nieves said. “It is just a matter of living up to the name.”
Salisbury will look to continue living up to that name in a ranked contest on the road that will pit them against the No. 11 Catholic University Cardinals on Feb. 25. The Gulls beat the Cardinals last season 12-7.