By Chris Mackowiak
Consistency: one thing that was tough to find in SU women’s soccer last season. Injuries in the core of the season threw the Sea Gulls off-balance as they continued to search for their identity, chemistry and formation.
Despite senior losses including much of their midfield, fifth-year SU head coach Kwame Lloyd looks to find that consistency at the beginning of the 2017 campaign as a youth-heavy 2016 squad adds another year of experience under its belt.
With a record of 5-8-4 (4-4-1 CAC), SU still squeezed into the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) playoffs, but did not fare well, losing 2-1 in the first round at third-seeded St. Mary’s College of Maryland. A part of that overall record was a 3-4 home record and a 0-1-3 overtime record. One thing is simple, Salisbury must start defending the SU Soccer Complex and start winning in the clutch in 2017.
With senior striker Ruthie Lucas and senior stalwart center back Rachel Anderson both returning, the leadership is there to progress and grow in 2017. While Sea Gull fans should not expect a complete turnaround this campaign, a consistent identity and formation would be key progress.
Below the Flyer looks at the 2017 Salisbury women’s soccer schedule and analyzes the top-five match days to keep an eye on.
Top-Five Match-ups of 2017
Sept. 1 – vs. Shenandoah University Hornets (in SU Soccer Classic)
This match is the first of five Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) vs. Sea Gull battles in 2017 for SU women’s soccer. SU starts off once again in their own Salisbury University Soccer Classic, which is a key way to garner momentum in the new year.
Shenandoah is an example of an ‘upper middle of the pack’ team that SU should contend with and, hopefully for fans, defeat. Following a 13-7-1 (7-3 ODAC) season in 2016, the Hornets advanced to the ODAC Semifinals before falling to top-seeded Washington & Lee.
After SU went 1-4-3 against non-conference foes last season, this is a good situation to get a win against an upper-pack ODAC squad in their own friendly confines. A win here is a great avenue into SU Soccer Classic Day No. 2 when the Sea Gulls host Liberty League Champion and NCAA Quarterfinalist William Smith (21-1, 8-0 LL).
Sept. 9 – vs. Roanoke College (Neutral Site: Lynchburg, Va.)
In their second tournament of the season, the Sea Gulls will travel deep into the heart of Virginia and ODAC-country for match-ups with both Lynchburg College and Roanoke College in the Shellenberger Classic. Fans should not write off Salisbury in their Day No. 1 match against 2016 NCAA Tournament team Lynchburg College (15-3-3, 7-1-2 ODAC), but on a neutral site, their Sunday game vs. Roanoke provides an opportunity for a solid resume win.
The Roanoke Maroons fell victim to Shenandoah in the ODAC Quarterfinals last season, but they put together a 9-6-4 (7-3 ODAC) campaign before that. Roanoke is another one of the upper-pack ODAC teams that SU can get a confident win against. When the two teams faced off in 2016, it ended in a 1-1 draw in Short Pump, Va.
Look for this to be another fun match-up, and maybe the Sea Gulls will come home 2-0 on the weekend and surprise the ODAC.
Sept. 16 – vs. Catholic University of America
Don’t worry. The ODAC Craze is now done, moving into the Landmark Conference with the Catholic University of America. Sea Gull fans may remember a tough 3-2 overtime defeat at the Cardinals a season ago.
Now SU gets their Landmark foes at home as the lone home match from Sept. 6 to Oct. 6 in a massive road stretch (nine games). Catholic went only as far as the Landmark Semifinals, falling to Moravian, after putting together an 11-4 (4-3 Landmark) season.
This match provides ample opportunity against one of their familiar opponents across the Chesapeake Bay. Another win against a upper-pack non-conference team can help keep the confidence brewing on the tough stretch. The Sea Gulls will be excited to be home too.
Oct. 4 – at St. Mary’s (Md.)
Now into the CAC where SU has had their struggles in recent competition. Going 4-4-1 in the conference in 2016, there were highs and lows and many close results with the Sea Gulls on the wrong end of the stick.
At the end of Sept., Salisbury ends a five-game road stint with matches at the University of Mary Washington and at St. Mary’s (Md.). Either one of these opponents could have made the top-five, but the St. Mary’s match is an excellent spring board in the following week’s four-game home stretch. No matter what occurs over the four road matches leading up to this game, three points here will help solidify the Sea Gull confidence at home.
Salisbury and St. Mary’s were familiar with each other last season, meeting two times including in the CAC First Round. The Seahawks won both contests by a goal aggregate of 4-1.
For Salisbury to make progress and take its next step, they need to start getting results against the upper-CAC opponents such as St. Mary’s, Mary Washington, Frostburg State and also Christopher Newport. At the end of the day, draws are always better than losses and that could pave the way for a higher conference playoff seed.
Oct. 15 – vs. York College (Pa.)
Spartans vs. Sea Gulls marked one of the most important matches for SU women’s soccer in the CAC Playoff hunt last season. Salisbury fell 1-0 at York. Luckily, SU bounced back the following game in a 5-1 home win against Wesley to clinch the CAC sixth seed.
However, matches like these are ones that the Sea Gulls must start getting favorable results in, or just not being shut out (five times in 2016). York ended up with the fifth seed in 2016 partially due to this result. 2017 might hold much of the same prophecy on the importance of this match.
This season, the match occurs in the midst of a four-game home CAC stretch for SU and just prior to the Sea Gulls’ home battle with CNU. Coming off matches with Marymount (Va.) and Penn State – Harrisburg, it is a solid chance at a consistent favorable result streak for SU. Momentum into the CNU match will be key for Salisbury to ‘pull the upset.’
And if Salisbury is teetering towards the end of the season again, these three points at home could be crucial.
Stay tuned to The Flyer as we prepare for the start of the 2017 Fall sports season.
Remaining SU women’s soccer match schedule (home matches in bold):
Sept. 2 – vs. William Smith (at SU Soccer Classic)
- 2016: 21-1 (8-0 LL); Liberty League Champions; NCAA Quarterfinalist
Sept. 5 – vs. Washington College
- 2016: 5-10-1 (0-9 Centennial Conference)
Sept. 8 – at Lynchburg College (Shellenberger Classic)
- 2016: 15-3-3 (7-1-2 ODAC); ODAC Semifinalist, NCAA Second Round
Sept. 13 – at Virginia Wesleyan College
- 2016: 12-6-3 (7-0-3 ODAC); ODAC Championship finalist
- NCAA First Round; defeated SU 2-0 in 2016
Sept. 19 – at Rutgers-Newark
- 2016: 1-12-2 (0-9 New Jersey Athletic Conference)
Sept. 23 – at Southern Virginia University
- 2016: 6-11 (2-7 CAC); fell to SU 1-0
Sept. 24 – at Bridgewater College (Va.)
- 2016: 13-5-1 (6-3-1 ODAC); ODAC Quarterfinalist
Sept. 30 – at University of Mary Washington
- 2016: 11-6-2 (6-2-1 CAC); defeated SU 1-0 in 2016
Oct. 7 – at Penn State-Harrisburg
- 2016: 6-12 (3-6 CAC); fell to SU 4-0 in 2016
Oct. 11 – vs. Marymount University (Va.)
- 2016: 7-9 (2-7 CAC); fell to SU 4-0 in 2016
Oct. 18 – vs. Christopher Newport University
- 2016: 17-3-1 (8-0-1 CAC); CAC Champions
- NCAA Second Round; drew against SU 1-1 in 2OT
Oct. 21 – at Frostburg State University
- 2016: 10-10-1 (7-2 CAC); defeated SU 2-0 in 2016
Oct. 25 – at Wesley College
- 2016: 4-11-1 (0-9 CAC) fell to SU 5-1 in 2016
CAC Tournament: Oct. 28, 31 and Nov. 4