By Zach Gilleland
The fourth-ranked Salisbury field hockey team opened up Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) play with another dominant performance Saturday, defeating No. 17 Mary Washington 6-1 on Homecoming night.
The Sea Gulls (8-1) and Eagles (6-4) met twice last season with both teams winning 2-1. This game, however, was anything but an offensive struggle for Salisbury.
After rain drenched the Salisbury area throughout the week, the wet turf at Sea Gull Stadium could not cool the red hot Sea Gull offense.
Salisbury would start the attack early, with senior midfielder Abbey Shobe evading a save attempt by Eagle goalkeeper Jessica Cavolt and placing the ball behind a Mary Washington defender for the first goal of the game. Shobe added another goal less than two minutes later, her team-leading 11th goal of the season.
“I saw an opportunity to run through on the ball and [when] I saw the open space I ran to it and as soon as I touched the ball I knew that I was going to score,” Shobe said. “I was just ready and I looked up and saw the goalie, went around her and it just went in.”
The Sea Gulls continued to play aggressively, firing shot after shot. Senior forward Becca Rinaca scored after a rebound deflected off Cavolt, giving Salisbury three-consecutive goals to start the game.
The Eagles finally found the back of the cage with forward Lexie Dixson scoring off a penalty corner. Salisbury quickly answered back, executing a series of passes with freshman midfielder Rachel Domanico finding junior forward Natalie Wilkinson for the score, giving the Gulls a 4-1 lead at the end of the half.
“We knew we had to set the tone from the start and we went out and did that,” SU Head Coach Dawn Chamberlin said. “Last time we played, it was a double-overtime victory so we certainly didn’t want to go down that road again. It was very important that we were strong from the start and held it all the way through.”
With a three-goal lead at the start of the second half, the Sea Gull offense showed no signs of slowing down.
A foul by Mary Washington led to a Salisbury penalty stroke and senior back Annah Brittingham ripping a shot through the top of the cage. Junior midfielder Nicole Lindner added a sliding goal late to give the Sea Gulls its sixth and final goal.
Junior goalkeeper Tressie Windsor provided four saves for Salisbury. Despite a couple of looks from Mary Washington, the Sea Gull defense did not allow a goal in the second half.
“I think our defense is strong and we’re very poised,” Chamberlin said. “We made a statement for opening our CAC play and we wanted to not have anything in question going into the conference.”
In its first nine games of the season, Salisbury has held opponents to one goal or less eight times.
The Sea Gulls finish up non-conference play Wednesday, facing Catholic University. Salisbury will look to avenge last season’s 2-0 loss, and with the way the Gulls are playing this season, it will be tough to keep them off the scoreboard.