BY CHRIS MACKOWIAK
With the departure of legendary Salisbury Men’s Soccer Head Coach Gary DiBartolo a season ago, new Head Coach Alex Hargrove looked to start off his first season on the right foot. With stout defense and freshmen playmakers, the Sea Gulls were able to accomplish this and more as they took down Wilson College 8-0 during the Elmer Lord Soccer Classic on Friday afternoon.
Wilson College (2015: 3-10-2) sought to make a turn after a lackluster season in 2015 in which the Phoenix scored only 12 goals while also finishing 11th in the NEAC.
After winning a conference championship in 2015, Salisbury (2015: 13-4-3) desired to build upon the same goals of the previous season while also incorporating new faces including a stellar freshman class.
The Sea Gulls set the tempo early by holding most of the possession in the first minutes of the match. A miscue by a Wilson defender allowed the ball to fall to forward Leslie Umunna in the 3rd minute. After spotting Wilson goalkeeper Dan Perry off his line, Umunna rocketed a shot from well outside the 18 into the back of the net to open up the scoring with his first of two goals in the match.
“Leslie has worked tremendously hard in the offseason in a lot of facets of his game, and it showed today. He was combining well with other guys around him. Causing danger anytime he was on the ball and that’s what we want out of him as the season goes on,” said Coach Hargrove.
From then on in the first half, it was all-Salisbury as the Sea Gulls tallied 2 other goals in the first half alone including ones from junior winger Brooks Zentgraf and JUCO transfer and defender Colby Fell.
With such a commanding lead for Salisbury, Coach Hargrove was able to provide playing time for many freshmen including ones he said contain “unique abilities” such as midfielder Dolph Hegewisch and forward Ryan Spadin.
Both entered the match and displayed instant success. Hegewisch displayed his talents through passing abilities in order to dictate and open up space for his teammates including the creation of a one-on-one matchup for Leslie Umunna to curl his second goal into the back of the net in the 55th minute.
Hegewisch would add his own goal to his assist on the previous play through a steal inside the opponent’s 18 less than one minute later.
The true highlight of the day was a cross into the box from freshman midfielder Matthew Hawkins to Ryan Spadin. Spadin responded with a bicycle kick into the back of the net for his first of two goals in the match that rose the SU bench and coaching staff to their feet.
“[The freshmen] came in with the right attitude and right mind set this preseason and have made some adjustments quickly. You clearly saw some special goals and special qualities out of those guys. Things that we knew they had there, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they can bring over the course of the long season. It’s certainly good to get them some confidence early on,” said Coach Hargrove.
With six scorers accounting for eight goals on the day, it was clear that an offense that averaged 1.60 goals per game was ready to perform this season.
The true leadership and backbone came through the defense, which was the central reason for the championship run in 2015.
With the addition of JUCO transfer Colby Fell to the returning central back starters of junior Mike Kramer and senior Nathaniel Eiben, the experience of Salisbury was on display as they held Wilson led by midfielder Aaron Russ to one shot the entire match, which left little to worry about for GK Dan Brennan.
Fullbacks Nick Carrington and Kevin Miller also put together excellent performances moving up the field and becoming involved with the offense.
“We’re fortunate to add Colby [Fell] to that back-line, and Nick Carrington and Kevin Miller had fantastic games in the wide back positions,” noted Coach Hargrove. “It’s a coach’s headache picking a starting lineup with all those guys back there, but it’s one we’re fortunate to have. They formed some strong partnerships early on and that’s just going to carry on into the next match.”
Following a match that showcased a deep Salisbury team, there will be plenty for the head coach to think about concerning his lineup over the next few days.
Due to Tropical Storm Hermine, the match vs. Rutgers-Camden on Saturday was canceled. Therefore, Salisbury’s next matches will take place September 10th and 11th when they travel to St. Mary’s College for their annual soccer classic.