SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 2 Salisbury University field hockey team will play for the Capital Athletic Conference championship on Saturday night, hosting the University of Mary Washington at Sea Gull Stadium, beginning at 6 p.m.
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How we got here
The Sea Gulls rolled to a 6-0 record in CAC play during the regular season to earn the top seed in the CAC tournament and a first-round bye. Salisbury began slow in the semifinal round of the tournament on Wednesday, November 2 against York College of Pennsylvania, seeing that game head to halftime scoreless, but the Sea Gull offense came alive in the second half for a 5-0 win.
How they got here
The Eagles went 12-5 in the regular season and 4-2 in league play to be seeded third in the CAC tournament. After a first-round bye, Mary Washington traveled to second-seeded Christopher Newport University. The Eagles took a 2-0 lead through the first 52 minutes of play, but the Captains drew even with goals in the 61st and 68th minute to force overtime. It took nearly 11 minutes of extra time before Morgan LaRowe picked up her second goal of the game, off an assist from Lexie Dixon, for the game winner, sending the Eagles to Saturday's championship contest.
Salisbury holds a 41-8 all-time record against the Eagles, in the series dating back to 1983 when the Sea Gulls claimed an 8-0 win. Salisbury has won five of the past six meetings, with two of those recent victories being overtime wins. Last season, it was an overtime victory for Salisbury in the CAC championship game at Mary Washington. Saturday's contest will be the ninth meeting between the two programs in the CAC championship game. The Sea Gulls are 8-0 in the previous eight title match meetings, with three of the games going to overtime.
Last time we met
On Salisbury's Homecoming on October 1, the teams met in Sea Gull Stadium, with the Sea Gulls picking up a convincing 6-1 victory. Salisbury scored twice in the opening eight minutes of play, with senior Abbey Shobe getting the two early tallies. Classmate Becca Rinaca added an insurance tally in the 26th minute before the Eagles got their lone score of the day. Salisbury added a goal later in the first half before putting home two more in the final 35 minutes to close out the win. The Sea Gulls held a 22-9 edge in shots with junior Tressie Windsor notching four saves in the victory.
Scouting the Eagles
Mary Washington brings a balanced offense into Saturday's match, with five different players scoring at least nine goals each. Lauren Hopkins leads the way with 14 scores, whiel Christine Loehr has found the back of the cage 11 times, followed by 10 each from LaRowe and Allegra Massey-Elim. Massey-Elim has made her scores count, as she's notched a team-high four game-winning goals. Sophomore goalkeeper Jessica Cavolt has played more than 1,000 minutes in goal, registering a 1.57 goals-against average, which is third in the CAC.
No goals allowed
Salisbury has long been admired for stellar defense, and the 2016 season has been no different, with the Sea Gulls ranking second in the nation, surrendering just 0.66 goals per game. Over the past five games, the defense has been even better statistically, allowing just one goal over the past 373 minutes of play. Only twice this year, in 16 games, has Salisbury allowed more than one goal.
Saturday's game features seven of the top eight players in the CAC in assists per game, led by Mary Washington's Hopkins and Loehr, who rank first and second in the league with 12 and 11 assists, respectively. The two Eagles rank 10th and 14th in Division III field hockey. On Salisbury's side, Annah Brittingham has a team-high eight assists, ranking third in the CAC and 30th nationally, followed by Rachel Domanico's six helpers and Hannah Miller, Natalie Wilkinson, and Kristen Yingling, who each have five assists this year.
The winner of Saturday's match will be the CAC champion and earn the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament. The team that loses on Saturday will await the announcement of the NCAA tournament field, late Sunday night. The NCAA tournament begins on Wednesday, November 9.