By Jacob Stolle
The No. 2 ranked Salisbury University Sea Gulls won their fourth consecutive Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) title Saturday, in a record setting performance against the University of Mary Washington Eagles 8-0.
The Sea Gulls took the field against Mary Washington, along with their Head Coach Lindsey Elliot, a former assistant coach at Salisbury. Elliot took over the UMW field hockey program in 2011, and within a season she had the Eagles in the NCAA Division III final four.
This season’s Eagles had an up and down start to the season, culminating in a 6-1 loss to Salisbury on Oct. 1. After that however, UMW rolled to five straight wins, outscoring opponents by 23 in that span. This streak ended when the Eagles fell to Christopher Newport 1-0 on Oct. 26.
In the rematch vs. the Captains, Mary Washington achieved a narrow 3-2 win in overtime as the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. The Eagles entered the CAC championship coming off of the big win, and hungry for redemption against Salisbury.
The Sea Gulls entered the game as one of the hottest teams in the nation, winners of 11 in a row, sitting solid at No. 2 in the country. Three consecutive shutouts led Salisbury into this game, the latest being a 5-0 win over York in the CAC semifinals on Wednesday.
Salisbury did not waste any time setting the tone on Saturday night, notching the first goal of the game off the stick of senior forward Becca Rinaca just three and a half minutes into the game. Less than three minutes after that, sophomore forward Kristen Yingling, making only her third start of the season, added on the second goal of the contest.
The Sea Gulls continued to pile on the Eagles throughout the rest of the first half, adding in two more goals, one from both Rinaca and Yingling. Coming out of the halftime break, Salisbury was far from done scoring, notching back to back goals from junior forward Natalie Wilkinson.
After adding on two more goals by the senior stars Abbey Shobe and Becca Rinaca, Salisbury finished the CAC championship with eight goals on the scoreboard, the most for any team in the conference title game’s history. The record was also set for combined goals, despite Salisbury winning the game 8-0.
Rinaca and Yingling were the stars of the game offensively, both totaling six points, Rinaca off of three goals, while Yingling had two goals and an assist. This conference title game performance caps off a week to remember for Salisbury University’s No. 18, as she had a goal and an assist as well in the semifinal game vs. York.
Despite the implications of the championship game, Yingling came onto the field inspired to perform by a greater, off-the-field motive.
“I recently had one of my best friends die over the weekend. Logan Jones, he went here, and [my teammates] have been putting a lot of encouragement into me, making sure that I am okay, making sure I am doing well in practice. We dedicated this game to Logan,” Yingling said.
“We all wrote ‘LJ’ on our leg, and it really made me happy, and more excited to play, knowing that I’m playing for him.”
Junior goalkeeper Tressie Windsor had a great game for the Sea Gulls as well Saturday night, marked by a season high in saves with seven in the cage. This became Salisbury University’s fourth consecutive shutout, entering the NCAA tournament on a hot streak.
Windsor has put together a strong junior campaign thanks in large part due to the phenomenal play by her back line, who only allow an average of 2.71 shots on goal per game.
“They push me to my limits every day in practice, and it’s easy to face anyone else when you have the best team in the country, in my opinion, shooting against you in practice every day, and my defense set me up very nicely, so I just have to clean up the trash”, Windsor said.
Following the championship, the Sea Gulls will eagerly anticipate the release of the NCAA Division III Tournament bracket. After a disappointing finish last season, Salisbury looks for the path to the national title game to be revealed. The bracket will be released either late Sunday night, or early Monday morning.
“[Messiah] sits at No. 1 in the country, and we are No. 2, so if everything pans out the way it’s supposed to, then we will definitely see them again, maybe in the biggest game: the national championship”, Windsor said.