BY ROBERT KRUAKRAU
As Meredith Avenging Angels sophomore star Jessica Wallace turned to start her offensive push on goal, she instead met two Salisbury Sea Gulls in her path.
They double-teamed Wallace, bodying her and eventually taking the ball away, stifling any hopes of a goal. This was the plan for the Sea Gull: to stop any offensive chance before it got going with a swarming defense.
For the first day of the 2016 Salisbury University Classic, the Sea Gulls (1-0) met their foes, Meredith College (0-1), on a windless 80 degree beautiful day ready to take charge as the hosts of the tournament.
Coming off an impressive 2015 season (12-4-2), the team was feeling confident because of the plethora of experience returning. Almost every player credited with an assist or goal was an upperclassmen.
“Our nucleus of midfielders are seniors, so that allows us to have some composure on the ball,” said fourth year coach Kwame Lloyd.
“They work well with each other and get the ball to the flanks so we have more time to make decisions. It helps a lot.”
The scoring got started 19 minutes in, when a Gulls midfielder expertly led junior forward Ruthie Lucas with a pass in the box.
Lucas looked to shoot and saw the goalie pursuing her, leaving much of the goal open. Lucas recognized the advantage and passed to sophomore forward Jenna Taylor, who finished the play off by firing to the far post, a perfect shot placement given the lack of positioning by the goalkeeper.
Another key takeaway for Salisbury was their advantage in speed. This was evident in all facets of the game, particularly in the race to a loose ball or putting down an attack by the Avenging Angels.
Meredith’s efforts to generate offense were foiled repeatedly by defenders racing to a pass before it reaches its target, ending the threat. The visitors struggled to string three or four passes together without interference by a Sea Gull.
“It’s something we work on every day. We did not want to give [forward Jessica Wallace] space,” said Coach Lloyd. “We knew if we gave her space she would turn and be very dangerous.”
The defense was physical as well, dismantling a rather promising offensive push with a hard tackle on an offender who would have been running free toward the goal on a two-on-one advantage. There was a foul called, and the free kick sailed over the goal.
The game was effectively put on ice in the 77th minute when Taylor again used her speed and intelligence to track down a poor attempt to clear the ball by the Avenging Angels and rifled a shot into the goal for her second of the game.
The Gulls allowed their first goal of the season 82 minutes into the game, on a sloppy pass in the defensive zone, to the dismay of all who were watching, rooting for a shutout.
After the cancellation of the Saturday matches of the 2016 SU Women’s Soccer Classic due to the impacts of Tropical Storm Hermine, the Sea Gulls will next be in action next Saturday, September 10th at Kenyon College.