WLAX: No.13 Sea Gulls aim to start CACs with a win against No.14 Mary Washington

By CHASE GORSKI

Staff Writer

@cgorski12

What: #13 Salisbury women’s lacrosse hosts #14 Mary Washington Eagles

Where: Sea Gull Stadium

When: Saturday, April 22 at 1 pm

How to Watch: Sea Gull Sports Network

No. 13 Salisbury (11-5, 7-1 CAC): After hitting their stride mid-season, including a stretch of nine wins in 10 games, the Gulls cooled off in the last two games of the season losing two close games to top-five opponents.  SU will need to rebound from those losses in order to move through the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) tournament.

CAC Dominance: Before their loss to York on April 4, Salisbury had compiled a 132-game win streak against CAC opponents (including postseason play) dating back to 2003.  The Gulls have been unstoppable in the postseason, winning 14 straight CAC Championships with a record of 32-0 since the 2003 season.

Offense: Throughout eight conference match-ups Salisbury is second in the CAC in goals-per-game averaging just over 14.  The Sea Gulls have used efficiency to their advantage offensively in conference games, scoring 81 percent of their shots on goal while firing the second most shots in the CAC at 231.

In all contests this year the Gulls have outscored opponents 186-105.  Senior midfielder Gabbi Nieves is at the offensive front leading the team in goals with 30, alongside junior attacker Dana King behind her team-leading 50 points and 22 assists on the season.

Defense: The defense this year for the Gulls has limited opponents to just over six goals per game, but they have struggled towards the end of the season, giving up an average of over eight goals in their final four games.  Junior goalie Gianna Falcone’s save percentage has slowly decreased over the last half of the season to 47.5, down from last year’s 52.6.

Senior defender Kieran Kelleher has led the defense effort with 16 caused turnovers and 25 ground balls on the season.  For a Salisbury team that led the CAC with 75 caused turnovers in conference play, the Sea Gulls defense could be a big difference maker as they make their playoff run.

Player to Watch: Senior midfielder Gabbi Nieves

While offensive production will be something to look for with the Gulls, and they will rely heavily on their playmakers like King and junior midfielder Krissy Murphy, Nieves has been their go-to goal scorer all season with 30 goals.  Riding a four-game goal streak, Nieves will be a difficult threat for Mary Washington to maintain.

Nieves will also have further motivation with the 2017 season as her final season with the Gulls.  Having won the CAC championship each of her first three years, she will look to do everything in her power to propel the Gulls to the finals for her fourth straight championship.

No. 14 Mary Washington (14-4, 6-2 CAC):

The Eagles seem to be getting hot at the right time, coming into the semifinal match-up against the Gulls on a seven-game win streak while also winning nine of their past 10 games.  Mary Washington dominated their first round match-up against Frostburg St. with a 16-5 victory.

The Eagles played Salisbury close in their game early on in the season, taking the away loss but only by a score of 9-7.  In a fairly even match-up, the game will come down to which defense can come up with the big stop, and the Eagles are known for limiting opposing offenses this year, leading the CAC with only five goals allowed per game.  The one worry for the Eagles, is if they can beat the Sea Gulls in the postseason for the first time in 14 years. Their last win against them in the playoffs was the 2002 CAC Championship.

Offense: Mary Washington’s offense has showed their potential this season averaging over 12 goals per game, while firing an average of 20 shots on frame each game.  In their 10-game stretch to end the season the Eagles were only prevented from scoring double-digits in two of those games, including averaging 16 goals in their last four.  With only a slight difference in production between home and away match-ups, the Sea Gulls defense will face a real challenge against Mary Washington scorers.

Sophomore attacker Mackenzie Maguire has led the charge on all fronts leading her team in goals, assists and total points with 41, 20 and 61 respectively.  Maguire hit a new level towards the end of the season, bringing a six-game point streak into the semifinals, averaging over four points a game in that stretch.

Defense: UMW’s stout defense has led the league with the lowest goals against average, only giving up over five goals-per-game in 18 match-ups this year.  Their scrappy defense also leads the CAC in caused turnovers, with 39 more than the next best team.  The Eagles will need to take advantage of their clear attempts, averaging only an 80 percent success rate on the year.

Senior midfielder Emily Mott and junior defender Kristen Littlefield are two of the key players that have helped this Eagles defense succeed.  Mott leads in caused turnovers with 25, and ground balls with 43.  Littlefield is right behind her with 22 caused turnovers of her own and 42 ground balls.

Draw Control: The Eagles hold the slight advantage over the Gulls in the face-off department.  With Littlefield and sophomore midfielder Paige Childers leading the team in the draw categories, this could be where UMW can steal possessions away from an SU team that on the season has just 160 draw controls while allowing their opponents 155.

Player to Watch: Sophomore goalie Hanna Ashby

In just her second season with the Eagles, Ashby has been the most dominant goalie in the CAC this season.  With a 5.44 goals-against-average, Ashby has the highest save percentage amongst conference goalies, as well as the fourth best save percentage in the nation at 58.9 percent.

Her performance in the net will determine the outcome of this game, and if she is able to maintain her success from this season, the Eagles could be looking to make history on Saturday.

 

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