By KYLE RUSSELL & CHRIS MACKOWIAK
Shootouts and soccer are not typically synonymous, but Saturday afternoon this was the case for Salisbury University women’s soccer against the Catholic University of America.
On paper ahead of the action, it was destined to be a tough match-up for Salisbury, a team facing an uphill climb after starting 2017 1-5. Senior forward Ruthie Lucas looked to the national stage to prepare for the match.
“[In] yesterday’s practice we were trying to watch a video the US women’s national team from 1999 and how they pushed through all of the challenges that they were facing and eventually winning the World Cup,” Lucas said.
“I think, for us, we were just trying during practice to play as hard as we would in a game. And trying to get the ball in the back of the net,” Lucas continued.
Getting the ball in the back of the net seemed like an easy task for both the Sea Gulls and the Cardinals Saturday afternoon with the two sides combining for nine goals. Catholic struck first in the contest, just 47 seconds in, on the foot of Elizabeth Johnson.
With the early goal for the Cardinals, things appeared to be going the way of the first couple games of the season but that’s where it changed. The two teams continued to respond back and forth with Maggie Moorcones putting CUA back on top in the 18th minute.
From there, the Sea Gulls found their stride, scoring the next three goals in the match. The second SU goal came from Ruthie Lucas, one of her two unassisted goals of the night. Then moments later the third goal was scored by sophomore Megan Brady with the assist coming from sophomore Dana Gordon. Putting the score at the end of the first half 3-2 in favor of the Gulls.
After halftime, the Gulls tacked on one more to complete Lucas’ brace on the day, leading 4-2. While the match seemed out of the Cardinals reach, they persevered with three more goals over the course of 27 minutes from Johnson, Riley Hawblitzel, and Jillian Sudo.
In the final minute of action, Salisbury achieved another chance on goal for Lucas, but it was not enough as the Sea Gulls (1-6) fell in heart-breaking fashion 5-4.
Despite the lead given up, positives emerged for Salisbury head coach Kwame Lloyd.
“I thought our midfield did phenomenal today, for the first time they were balanced, they got the ball through really well. Our offense scored four goals, recognizing the high line and being able to play the ball through for some chances,” Lloyd said.
On the offensive side, SU scored their most goals so far in 2017. Primarily their potent offensive threat Lucas got back on the board with her first two goals of the season and her 13th and 14th career ones respectively. The senior had been fighting an injury earlier this season.
“I’ve been in pretty much a goal scoring slump this season, I’m coming off of an injury and haven’t really been able to find the back of the net so this was huge for me personally just being able to make something happen and to feel like I’m doing my part,” Lucas said.
Both Brady and Homeyer scored their first goals of the season too. While junior Margaux Hrab did not find the back, of the net, she did have a strong, aggressive game in the midfield for SU.
“I just think that when you go out onto the field it’s a battle, it’s a war. We have to protect our house,” Hrab said. “You can’t be intimidated by everybody else. I used to be a timid player and I never want to be like that anymore. So I always want them to be scared of me.”
On the defensive side, senior goalkeeper Hope Knussman had five saves, and senior midfielder Jamie Tacka put together a good game on the defensive front. Her past struggles fuel her to succeed.
“I try to go out on the field like every game could be my last. I had an injury sophomore year that took me out for the whole season so I’m really just trying not to take anything for granted. I’m just really blessed to be able to play,” Tacka said.
Building from the loss
While the offense churned up a great performance, the Sea Gulls struggled in the lead during the second half. Catholic used key chances to their advantage to find momentum and get back into the game.
“Three of the goals they [Catholic] scored were set pieces, so having some accountability on set pieces. And then maybe finishing some of the chances we had. We had quite a few chances today. It could have been eight to four rather than five to four them,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd sees plenty to learn from the Saturday result, but the SU coach also preaches a positive outlook for something at the end of the tunnel. One positive was four goals on the day.
“We scored four goals in the game look at what we’ve done so far, we haven’t done that yet. So we scored four goals in the game, we have to stay positive,” Lloyd said.
“We have a line that we have to cross, and that line is that we either tank or we go forward. And I think that with the characters of this team we are going to go forward,” he continued.
The measure of character and a player for Lloyd is their hard work-ethic and their persistence to succeed. That was one thing on display after the game with a few SU players setting up drills without the coaches asking them to.
“To see the character of my kids look behind you,” Lloyd said. “That’s the characters of my kids, those are the kids that didn’t play. I didn’t ask them, to do that. That’s them pulling the cones out and doing it themselves because they want to be ready when called upon.”
It is the type of work ethic that Salisbury will need to break this opening stride. At the end of the day, SU gave up 18 shots to the Cardinals as compared to eight for the Sea Gulls. It provides something to work on and maybe humbles the team about what it takes to win in 2017.
Salisbury will next hit the pitch Tuesday at Rutgers-Newark as SU tries to break a four-game losing streak since their 3-1 win vs. Washington College.
“That’s why I get up in the morning, it’s because I get to work with those young people every day. We can only go up,” Lloyd said. “I work with a strong group of believers of themselves and their teammates and I’m not going to let them crumble.”