By CHRIS MACKOWIAK
After a 5-0 start to their 2016 campaign, the Salisbury University women’s lacrosse team (4-2, 1-0 CAC) has seen their ups-downs to start 2017.
Their game midweek at Rowan turned into a bright spot as the team blossomed into a 16-6 victory. The Sea Gulls continued with their momentum right into Saturday, defeating their Eastern Shore rival the Washington College Shorewomen (2-2) 15-8 for their first consecutive win span this season.
In the early-going Washington gained most of the possession, but the Gulls struck first. Junior attacker Kristen Murphy notched her seventh goal of the season to open the account for Salisbury three minutes into the action.
Back and forth play ensued afterwards for several minutes with the next goal not coming until 15 minutes into the half. The Shorewomen responded with back-to-back goals in a three-minute span to take the early 2-1 lead. Sophomore attacker Cecily Docktor initially tied up the game with her fourth goal of the season. The lead-goal then came from sophomore middie Caitlin Donovan.
The flood gates then opened for the Sea Gulls, going on a four-goal run over a six minute period for the Sea Gulls to take a 5-2 advantage. Four different Salisbury scored over the short span.
“I think a big thing is that everyone on offense is a threat and everyone is capable of scoring even if they shut one person down or someone isn’t having a good day. We’re all able to score,” junior attacker Dana King said.
After the two teams exchanged one goal apiece, Washington cut things closer to end the first half with two late free-position goals to move to the game to a 6-5 SU advantage at the break.
It was two quick SU goals that opened things up to start the second half. On two unassisted plays both King and freshman middie Elaine Draper converted to send to Gulls’ lead up to three.
King tallied the high-point for Salisbury on the day with five points accumulated from two goals and three assists. With her goals vs. Washington, the Lusby, Md. native already surpassed her 2016 goal total of 14. So far in 2017, King already has 16 goals.
“I think I’ve definitely built some confidence up from last season. Coach has really told me that last season I was more of an assister. I’m still looking for those feeds, but he told me that I’m capable of going to goal so it’s just a confidence thing,” King said.
From there the Salisbury offense, averaging over 12 goals-per-game, continued to strengthen on the field to score nine goals just in the second half.
Both sides of the ball seemed to turn around in the second half as the SU defense also stepped up to allow only three goals in frame alongside providing struggles for the Washington midfield.
Entering the game with a 56 percent success rate on free-position chances, Washington could only take advantage of three of their eight total chances from the fan. The SU defense has allowed only seven goals on 27 free-position shots this season (25.9 percent).
“I think we played as a team for sure. Coach prepared us for this game really well and knew who we had to take out and who we really had to worry about,” SU senior defender Kayla Miller said.
Clearing was also an issue for the Shorewomen, losing possession prior to the restraining line on four of their 15 opportunities. Entering Saturday’s contest the Sea Gulls were allowing 25 percent more clears than their 2016 campaign.
A point of emphasis planning for Saturday’s game was defending against Washington leading scorer and senior attacker Katherine Vincent. Vincent was coming off a six goal performance at Stevenson University midweek.
“(Vincent) is a really fast player so you really have to be on your toes all the time. Just try to take her out of the play because Coach really harped on that and it seemed to work,” Miller said, who was defending Vincent for most of the contest.
The senior still accounted for four goals and her first two assists of 2017 despite the SU defensive effort. With her four-goal performance, the 5-11 attacker moved into a tie for tenth in all-time goals scored as a Washington College women’s lacrosse player.
“I thought we did a very nice job containing (Vincent) for the most part which we saw on film heading into this game. So I was very happy with defensively overall how we were able to defend her,” SU head Coach Jim Nestor said.
On the Salisbury offensive end, eight different players tallied goals for the Sea Gulls. Salisbury now has three separate games this season with at least 15 goals. Another welcomed site for SU was the return of senior attacker Ariana Maxwell from a preseason injury. Maxwell totaled 25 goals in 2016.
“When you’re well-balanced, it’s tough to shut down an offense and with a wide variety of players scoring and multiple goals on top of it all,” Coach Nestor said.
Through their second half surge, Salisbury now moves two games over .500 at 4-2. The Sea Gulls’ next two match-ups feature teams in the IWLCA Top-20 in the form of No. 17 Mary Washington and No. 20 Colby.
The win vs. Washington extends the Gulls’ winning streak two games now which is their longest streak so far this season. Salisbury is off until Saturday when they travel to Mary Washington (5-2).