By KYLE RUSSELL & CHRIS MACKOWIAK
Following a four-game road trip, the Salisbury University men’s soccer team returned to the Sea Gull Soccer Stadium Saturday evening for a match-up with the Misericordia University Cougars. Despite coming in with only one win in 2017, an offensive surge in the second half propelled the Sea Gulls to a huge 4-0 victory, their first home win this season.
“Coach [Hargrove] put a lot of emphasis on reaching a hundred percent and that’s what we did today,” SU sophomore defender Stephen White said.
At the half, the game was uneventful despite both sides getting their fair share of chances, shots, and set pieces. The Cougars and Gulls entered the locker room scoreless at 0-0. SU second-year head coach Alex Hargrove went to this team at halftime emphasizing a three-point plan to get things going on the offensive end.
“We got to continue to find switches on the field and attack quickly, we gotta do a better job of managing the transition moments a little bit, and we gotta be ready to take the chances when they come and certainly the guys in the second half did all of those three things,” Hargrove said.
Coming off a close first half, the Sea Gulls needed to focus on keeping their composure too. They did just that and more.
“We stayed calm and collected in the back, we didn’t give up in the attacking third and I thought it was a change from the other games this year,” SU sophomore midfielder Dolph Hegewisch said.
While the Salisbury defense continued to succeed, the Gulls’ offense came back stronger and full of intensity, with Hegewisch scoring two unassisted goals, just seven minutes apart from one another. Pressuring the Misericordia backline was the key to the success as Hegewisch connected on two breakaway chances.
After leading the Sea Gulls in scoring with six goals last season, Hegewisch tallied the most shots on the team entering the match Saturday with no goals to show for it. The 2016 second team All-CAC player was grateful for the opportunities.
“It’s a huge relief coming off seven games not scoring a goal and now scoring two in one game it’s a huge relief and a lot off my shoulders. I’m very excited and I’m looking forward to Wednesday,” Hegewisch said.
Shortly after, sophomore midfielder Ryan Spadin scored the third goal of the game assisted by junior Cameron Wilson. Spadin cut inside outside of the box and curled the ball around Misericordia sophomore goalkeeper Patrick Hoffman for his first tally in 2017. The quick succession of goals tilted momentum and the game the Sea Gulls way for the remainder of the contest
“I give credit to a lot of new faces on the field at the end, they were able to manage the game and get the shot out,” Hargrove said.
The last goal of the game was scored with four minutes left in the game by White, assisted by freshman forward Kevin Eriksen.
“It wasn’t the prettiest goal but it’s a goal. But it’s not just the goals that matter it’s the win all together. Everyone worked really hard,” White said, after his first career SU goal.
White gained the service on the Eriksen cross, settled it inside the box and then drove it on frame of essentially an open net after Eriksen drew the Misericordia goalkeeper out of the net with his run.
“We were able to use the depth of our roster to continue to put pressure on their back line and eventually we got some guys with some pretty good scoring opportunities and they took care of it,” Hargrove said.
As the Sea Gull offense poured the goals in, SU junior goalkeeper Trevor Brookhart stood tall in the net, gaining his second shutout of the season in his seven starts. Both Brookhart and the defensive members worked together through communication and crisp passing to accomplish the shutout.
“It’s our objective as a goal keeper and defense to go in every game and get a shut out so it feels really good. We work during practice and we work on communication and just passing throughout the back form, keeping it all together,” Brookhart said.
Averaging 5.4 shots-per-game this season, the Misericordia offense could not get a tally with their nine shots and seven corner kicks. Brookhart also contributed two saves on the night.
With a new formation in action in this contest, Salisbury’s offense had a new chemistry in the game Saturday night. It’s one born from the relationships among the team off the field.
“We are all best friends to be honest we all hang out. They are always at our apartment and we are always in commons. You’ll never find anyone alone in commons or around campus,” White said.
As for the future, the players hope to pull out another win on Wednesday and to keep the offensive production coming that they began in Saturday’s second half.
“We gotta keep plugging away, we have a lot of non-conference games coming up and then conference schedule starts so we just gotta continue to take the mentality on the field today into the training,” Hargrove said.
Salisbury will hit the road for their next two match-ups as they will face Stevenson University Wednesday and then start Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) play at Southern Virginia next Saturday.