By ETHAN WILT
The Salisbury University men’s soccer team battled with St. Mary’s College (Md.) Wednesday afternoon, with the Seahawks edging out the Sea Gulls 1-0 in a close, physical match-up. Heading into Wednesday afternoon’s game, tensions were already high between the two teams, after forming a regional rivalry over recent years.
Salisbury’s offense had all the momentum at the start of the game. The Sea Gulls (5-7, 1-2 CAC) dominated time of possession in the first few minutes, keeping the ball in the Seahawks’ half. Quick shots kept the pressure on St. Mary’s early on like senior forward Brooks Zentgraf’s that just missed off the right goalpost. This coupled with sophomore midfielder Dolph Hegewisch’s three shots in five minutes provided the bulk of Salisbury’s offense in the first half.
The success was short-lived though. In the rest of the half and into the start of the second half, Salisbury’s offense was full of missed opportunities and general ineffectiveness on offense.
However, St. Mary’s (7-4, 3-0 CAC) took advantage of an energetic offensive attack with Seahawk forward Khalid Balogun leading the way, displaying speed and finesse with the ball. The 2016 Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Rookie of the Year, Balogun, held up the ball and distributed it well to his fellow attackers.
Following Salisbury’s early rise in the game, SMC midfielder Brad Moore connected with a blocked shot to score in the 21st minute of the first half, proving to be the deciding score of the match.
“Yeah, you know it ultimately just comes down to it wasn’t good enough for us in terms of decision-making. We lost the ball, [our team’s] response to get it back wasn’t good enough either,” SU head coach Alex Hargrove said.
The disappointment ranged to the players too. Following a 2-1 loss at Mary Washington last Saturday, the team saw much to be desired on Wednesday.
“I mean the first half, I think we just came out real slow. I guess it has a lot to do with being a Wednesday game. I guess we weren’t ready, which is not acceptable. I didn’t feel any energy out on the field, you know? Just really upsetting honestly, didn’t get our result here,” SU senior defender Nick Carrington said.
At the end of the first half, the Sea Gulls only had a four-shot differential between themselves and the Seahawks, but Salisbury still had much to work on.
Coming into the second half, the Salisbury came out roaring, playing fast and aggressive, and putting the Seahawk defense on their toes. Sea Gull senior midfielder Matthew Zimmerman, opened the half with two shots within the first six minutes. Salisbury would do their best to keep up this pace and looked much improved from their play in the first half.
Hegewisch attributes this quick change to coach Hargrove’s halftime talk.
“Coach got on us. We didn’t come out as strong as we should’ve, and I think the halftime talk really put it into us, and we really wanted to come out and play like we should,” Hegewisch said.
Salisbury got in transition more often in the second half, allowing the defense to maintain their energy as well as allow more shots to be taken. Salisbury had multiple free kicks and a corner kick in the second half, all cleared by the Seahawk defense.
Salisbury’s best chance to tie the game came late in the first half. After a ball snuck through the box on a cross, SU freshman forward Cameron Ament found the ball, stepped up and drove the ball, sailing it up and over the crossbar. Sea Gulls never rallied to get another decent shot on goal.
Following their loss to St. Mary’s, Salisbury looks forward to their home match-up against Penn State-Harrisburg this coming Saturday. The game is not only another CAC game, but also marks Homecoming Weekend.
“It’s a huge atmosphere. . . and a huge, huge game for me, and really looking forward to it,” Hegewisch said.
Salisbury heads into Saturday with the goal of getting back to .500 in conference-play. That start of the game comes at 2 p.m.