SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University men's soccer team will travel to Montclair, New Jersey and the MSU Soccer Park at Pittser Field on the campus of Montclair State University on Saturday, November 14 to take on defending national champions, Tufts University in a NCAA Division III men's soccer tournament first-round match up at 7:30 p.m.
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How we got here
Salisbury made it into the NCAA tournament after winning its 8th Capital Athletic Conference title with a 2-0 victory over St. Mary's College of Maryland. The Sea Gulls went undefeated all season in CAC play en route to their fifth straight regular-season title. Leslie Umunna got the first goal for the Gulls in the championship game as he put home a penalty kick in the 13th minute. Freshman Joshua Lord would collect his first-career goal as the insurance tally for the Gulls in the 73rd minute, as Brad Martinelli was credited with the assist.
How they got here
Tufts earned its fifth all-time tournament appearance after receiving an at-large bid after falling in the New England Small College Athletic Conference quarterfinals to Bowdoin College. Prior to its loss to the Polar Bears, Tufts had been on a six-game undefeated streak that included a win over No. 15 Middlebury College. In the six-game undefeated streak, the Jumbos had scored eight goals while not allowing one.
Scouting the Jumbos
Tufts has been among the national leaders in team defense all season. Its 0.47 goals-against average is ninth nationally for the defending champions. Tufts' stingy defense has been led by junior keeper Scott Greenwood, who is 12th in the nation in both goals-against average (0.50) and save percentage (.855). Averaging 14.1 shots per game, the Jumbos have scored 1.3 goals per game. The offense is heavily reliant on junior Nathan Majumder, who has scored nine of the teams' 20 goals this season. Majumder will be unavailable for the Jumbos on Saturday after receiving a red card in their last match. Rui Pinheiro leads the team in assists with three and is the only Jumbo beside Majumder with multiple goals this year, as he has found the back of the net twice with both being game winners.
A not so familiar face
Salisbury has never faced the three other teams at the Montclair, New Jersey regional.
A disruptive defense
The Sea Gulls have not conceded a goal in 570 minutes of play, their longest streak since the 2013-14 season when they held opponents without a goal for 655 minutes. In the 570 minutes that the Salisbury net has been kept empty, senior keeper Drew Staedeli has compiled 34-consecutive saves. During the streak, the Salisbury offense has found a spark as it has tallied 11 of its own goals and has four games where it took over 20 shots, compared to twice in the previous 13 matches.
One last dance
In his 34th season, Head Coach and Interim Athletic Director Gerry DiBartolo has announced this season would be his last as the head coach of the men's soccer team. The game against Tufts will mark DiBartolo's 13th career NCAA tournament appearance as the coach of Salisbury as he sits as the 17th winningest coach in NCAA Division III men's soccer history.
On Wednesday, November 11, the CAC released its all-conference first and second teams and the Gulls were the best represented team in the conference. Headlining the bunch was DiBartolo, as he picked up his seventh CAC Coach of the Year award. Juniors Nathaniel Eiben and Umunna were voted onto the first team; while seniors Taylor Groginski, Dennis Runikera, Jr., and Staedeli were selected to the second team. Staedeli is the only All-CAC selection for the Gulls to not be selected for the first time, as it was the senior keepers' third time being be recognized by the conference.
The winner of the match against Tufts will take on the winner of the Montclair St., against Daniel Webster College game on Sunday, November 15 at 6 p.m.