By Chris Mackowiak
With the fall sports season coming to a close, each of the five Salisbury fall team sports will try to survive and advance as far as possible whether in the Capital Athletic Conference, New Jersey Athletic Conference (Football), or in the NCAA Tournament. At some point, each team’s run will end. At that time, it is our moment to reflect on the past season.
Here at The Flyer Sports, we will evaluate each team’s season and present awards to individuals on each squad. A staff writer or I will also present the season’s takeaway: if expectations were met, exceeded, or not met. Essentially, it will come down to if the season was a success or a failure. For each season, there will also be an SU Athletics breakdown where the staff will award student-athletes across the different team sports.
First to fall in the fall season is the Salisbury men’s soccer team. A team that entered the 2016 season with a new head coach, plenty of senior talent, and a mission to defend their 2015 conference title. Here are The Flyer’s awards:
Freshman of the Year: No. 19 forward Ryan Spadin
While Salisbury possessed a very talented senior class, the freshman class was just as impressive and surprising at times. The 2016 class brought in by former Head Coach Gerry DiBartolo and current Head Coach Alex Hargrove shined in their first few days at the SU Soccer Complex. Notably, forward Ryan Spadin appeared early on. From the first game against Wilson College, Spadin was on-the-scene with a bicycle kick goal that went viral through the Salisbury region.
His ability to stretch the wings of the opponent is very strong alongside his presence in the center attacking midfield to pressure the opposition. Spadin finishes the 2016 season tied for fourth on the team in goals (3) through 18 shots. Despite his freshman status, Spadin appeared in 15 matches while also starting in one.
Senior of the Year: No. 0 goalkeeper Dan Brennan & No. 1 goalkeeper Robert Fiackos
Despite the goalkeeping position coming into 2016 as one of the more confident positions, the core was riddled with injuries throughout the campaign. Salisbury men’s soccer has always been based on stout defense, which starts with the keeper supporting the backline. Both Brennan and Fiackos deserve the award after splitting the time between the pipes throughout the season.
Salisbury sported one of the top defenses in the CAC giving up 17 goals (tied first in CAC) and tallying a 1.03 goals-against-average (tied second in CAC). Both players were tough in clutch situations and led Salisbury through the thick-and-thin. Brennan as a Louisville-transfer added in x-factors to practice each week from his Division I experience.
Most importantly, up-and-coming freshman goalkeeper Samuel Roy has learned a thing or two from both of the veterans this season during practice. The Salisbury community will await until 2017 to see how that experience has affected Roy as the next man up.
Most Improved Player: No. 3 junior left back Nick Carrington
With three of the four starters back for the 2016 season, the only defensive question headed in was who would take over at the other full back spot for the graduated Cy McNeill. Carrington answered the call. He exceeded expectations with both his defensive prowess and ability to launch up field.
After having little starting experience coming in, Carrington made a statement in 2016. The left back finished second on the team in goals (5) and points (11). While three of the goals came from the penalty spot, Carrington proved that he could fit and excel in Hargrove’s system. Both full backs were able to lock down their respective wings on the field, forcing opposing teams to adjust and attack centrally.
With senior center back Mike Kramer, senior center back Nathaniel Eiben, and senior right back Kevin Miller all leaving, Carrington will lead the defense into a new age as a senior next season alongside Essex Community College transfer center back Colby Fell.
Defensive Player of the Year: No. 13 senior right back Kevin Miller
Opposing teams rarely had any success working down their left flank and that was because of at least one player every time: Kevin Miller. Miller’s physicality and toughness went into each and every match he played as a Sea Gull. The Salisbury right back appeared and started in all 16 of their games.
No goals came about from Miller, but his impact was always felt on offense. Miller’s ability to rush forward down the flank of Salisbury’s attack always stretched the opposing defense and opened up opportunities for the more central attackers. Fans at SU matches have been treated to his trademark throw-in within the final third of the field when Miller would find some way to throw the ball deep into the penalty box.
Miller’s departure will be immediately felt by the team alongside his fellow seniors. The positive side of the situation is that Miller provided the ideal figure of a full back in the Hargrove/DiBartolo system. It will now be Carrington’s turn to shape the next full back on the right side in 2017.
Offensive Player of the Year & MVP: No. 15 freshman midfielder Dolph Hegewisch
While it would be simple to name Hegewisch Freshman of the Year, he is more than welcome to be named for a higher honor. With many injuries plaguing the Sea Gulls this season, Hegewisch was instrumental in sparking the offense at certain times. Headed into the 2016 season, most people expected senior forward Leslie Umunna to lead the attack, but when the forward up top went down on multiple occasions, the freshman rose along with many others.
Hegewisch finishes the season with a team-leading six goals and three assists for a team-leading 15 total points. As a freshman, the central attacking midfielder appeared in 15 matches while starting in 10 of them. His impact is even larger considering what Salisbury faces next season: a rebuilding year. The progress and experience Hegewisch gained in 2016 will go a long way into his potential leadership roles down the line as a Sea Gull.
2016 Season Takeaway: Fell below expectations
Following a 2015 CAC championship in Coach DiBartolo’s final season, hopes were running high in SU men’s soccer for a repeat this season. With a large veteran presence of seniors throughout the starting lineup, it was hard to imagine the Sea Gulls missing the CAC playoffs.
However, the hypothetical became reality towards the end of the season; a season that featured the first four match losing streak since at least 1998. The Sea Gulls were simply on the wrong end of the stick on too many days. Seven of the team’s eight losses were by only one goal, and it did not help to have a record of 0-1-3 in overtime this season.
In a similar story to last season, Salisbury just could not find enough goals at the right moments to complement their often No. 1 CAC defense. The offense averaged 1.69 goals per game, but much of the stats became stacked after an early 8-0 win over Wilson College. The next chapter of the story of SU men’s soccer will be one of rebuilding. Coach Hargrove will get the chance to paint his own picture now headed into his second season, all be it with the same formation and brush that Coach DiBartolo used.
While much of the veteran talent will be gone, Fell and Carrington return to anchor the backline. The talented freshman class should all be back to play an integral part in the offense. Freshman midfielder Matt Hawkins is another name to watch for after tallying two assists this season. Despite so much love shown to Hegewisch and Spadin, Hawkins was the sub with the energy in many second halves. His ability to work the flanks while also weaving centrally was a powerful weapon for the Sea Gulls.
A name that got off to a slow start was junior forward Brooks Zentgraf this season. Towards the end of the season, Zentgraf was sharp finishing with three goals and two assists. The forward looked like a new player against Christopher Newport in the second half of the game. Watch for him to be the veteran leader of the offense in 2017.