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Nestor gets 300th SU win as undefeated season continues

By CHRIS MACKOWIAK

Sports Editor

@cmackowiakSGSN

Featured photo: Poster presented to SU women’s lacrosse Head Coach Jim Nestor after his 300th SU victory. March 31. Chris Mackowiak photo

Consistency is not something new to the Salisbury University women’s lacrosse program under Head Coach Jim Nestor. In his 16 previous seasons at the helm, the Sea Gulls have never had a losing season and have only lost three conference games.

Fast forward to 2018 in his now 17th season and Salisbury could be headed down a memorable road as the season rolls on. Now 11 games into the season, the Sea Gulls display a perfect 11-0 record including seven wins over ranked opponents.

The team is on their best start since the 2014 season when SU won its most recent national title. That Sea Gull squad won their first 16 games before falling in their final regular season game at No. 2 Cortland State.

“Last year was a learning experience for a lot of them,” Nestor said. “This year we’re seeing that veteran leadership really taken through. We’re working hard during practice and I’m not giving them an inch.”

The 2017 season was a rocky road for the Sea Gulls after starting the campaign 2-2 and losing their first CAC regular season game since 2002. However, it was the run in the CAC and NCAA Tournaments that made the season.

SU returned many faces from that team that won their 15th consecutive CAC championship and made it to an NCAA Regional Final. With an undefeated record to this point, something special could be brewing for the program.

The run has already produced accomplishments when Coach Nestor gained his 300th SU victory vs. No. 5 York (Pa.) on March 24.

“He’s an amazing coach,” SU senior goalkeeper Gianna Falcone said. “He can be hard on us, but that’s what you need sometimes. You need to get pushed and he pushes us. He’s supportive.”

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Poster presented to SU women’s lacrosse Head Coach Jim Nestor after his 300th SU victory. March 31. Chris Mackowiak photo

The Salisbury University graduate possesses a .889 winning percentage coaching the maroon and gold within an overall coaching record of 382-77-1 (.830). Three of those wins have come as national titles in the last eight seasons alongside a total of seven NCAA title game appearances.

For Nestor, the accolades and win totals reflect more on his players past and present that have grown through the program.

“It’s a testament to the university, what a great university it is to recruit the type of athlete to get 300 wins and the type of athlete we are getting,” Nestor said. “How hard they work not just in season but also out of season. Putting in all that time that regular students aren’t.”

As the team hunts for a fourth national title and 16th consecutive conference title, the win total is a small accolade for a flock of Sea Gulls that yearn for more after recent campaigns. All six of the 2018 seniors have never experienced the NCAA Tournament beyond a Regional Final.

With veteran leadership and consistency, the ingredients are there to get past that mark this season. Coming into 2018, the offense was a key backbone of the squad for goal production as the shot clock era came into fruition in NCAA Division III.

Three senior playmakers lead the team in points in Dana King, Krissy Murphy and Alissa Talbert. King has excelled in the goal production department, scoring 25 times including going 7-of-11 on free-position shots.

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King rounds the crease vs. Washington & Lee. March 3. Emma Reider photo

Through a veteran heavy unit comes discipline with the ball too. Salisbury is currently third in Division III in turnovers-per-game, coughing up the ball just 12.6 times each game.

Lack of possession for opponents alongside their own stout ability has allowed a younger defensive unit to grow. Giving up eight or more goals in six of their first seven games, SU has allowed no more than five goals in each of their last four games.

“We have such a young defensive unit, and they’re all working so well together that it’s great for our program,” Falcone said. “They’re all learning from each other too. We learn something new every single day at practice.”

Leading the younger flock have been senior Allie Hynson and junior Martha Hutzell on both defense and in the midfield. The two players both have more than 11 caused turnovers on the season as they also provide key play at the draw.

Allowing just over seven goals-per-game, the defense continues to lock down as the season goes on. The upperclassmen continue to permeate through the field.

“We’re back to our strong man-to-man defense,” Nestor said. “I think it all starts with our goalkeeper-play with Gianna. She’s been terrific and has come up with big saves.”

Falcone has been a stable force yet again for the Sea Gulls inside the cage during key moments. Ranking 11th in Division III, her save percentage is up to a 57.4 percent mark.

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Coach Nestor (left-center) talks to a few Sea Gulls on the sidelines vs. Washington & Lee. March 3. Emma Reider photo

With two other CAC teams (York and Mary Washington) floating nearby in the top-10, the second-ranked Sea Gulls will face multiple battles down the line, alongside non-conference game vs. No. 3 TCNJ still to come.

On Wednesday, CNU (6-5, 2-0 CAC) will be the next team to try and put a blemish on the Sea Gull’s season, averaging 14.82 goals-per-game while allowing 13 on defense.

Behind Nestor’s coaching consistency and mentoring, the same fundamentals will be in play as in his first season at the helm in 2002. A big difference might be an off-the-field one at the end of the day.

These senior Sea Gulls are hungry and looking to lead the flock to new heights.

“Ultimately, we’re just playing Salisbury lacrosse all over the field,” Falcone said. “We’re playing really strong defense. We’re working well together.”

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