By CHASE GORSKI
News Editor/Sports Reporter
Homecoming weekend for Salisbury University brought fans a lot of action across athletics, and the women’s soccer team did not disappoint.
In front of the Sea Gull faithful in their first game at home since a 5-4 loss against Catholic on Sept. 16, the Gulls (6-7, 4-0 CAC) dominated possession throughout a 2-0 win against Penn State Harrisburg (9-4, 2-2 CAC).
After the first couple minutes of the game went by with neither team maintaining much possession, the Salisbury midfield settled in and fueled the front lines.
Just eight minutes into the contest, SU sophomore striker Julianna Boller dribbled past two Lady Lion defenders into the box and beat senior keeper Kayla Arnold for the early goal to give SU a 1-0 lead.
“It’s nice to get an early start in the game, it gives us great energy and pumps us up for the rest of the game,” Boller said.
Boller has now scored in back-to-back games, providing senior striker Ruthie Lucas with much needed support on offense.
Throughout the first half the Sea Gulls dominated the possession game, totaling 14 shots and six corners while the Lady Lions were only mustered a single shot and one corner.
While the Salisbury midfield was controlling the game, the SU back line was suffocating, hardly allowing Penn State Harrisburg past midfield, much less near the goal.
The Lady Lions’ best opportunity of the half came in the dying seconds off a free kick by sophomore defender Madison Hemler. Hemler tried to sneak a shot just above Sea Gulls senior goalkeeper Hope Knussman, but Knussman, much like the rest of this season, made a great jumping save to push the ball over the crossbar.
The second half was much of the same for both teams, while the offense of Harrisburg stayed relatively quiet with little action, the defense was all over the field trying to stop the Gulls.
One of the players that Salisbury had their eye on coming into the Saturday afternoon matchup was Penn State’s junior forward Kristen Stark. Stark previously led the CAC with 10 goals and was a player that SU knew headed in that they needed to limit her opportunities.
“The game plan was to shut [Stark] down and we did it, so that was all we could ask for,” senior midfielder Jamie Tacka said. “It feels great, especially to protect our keeper.”
Tacka has been a key part of the Salisbury defense, along with senior back Rachel Anderson and freshman back Kayla Homeyer, stepping up in front of Knussman and limiting opponents.
“Our defense has played well the last three or four games, they recognize the big moments,” SU head coach Kwame Lloyd said. “The big thing for us was to have cover, and once we get that rhythm going it is really hard to get behind us.”
After numerous shots in the second half and multiple different chances, the Sea Gulls finally found the net again on the foot of their goal leader on the season, Ruthie Lucas. A header from sophomore midfielder Carly Glassford led Lucas perfectly into the box as she finished with a shot just past Arnold to give the Sea Gulls the 2-0 lead.
“It’s been a long week coming out of St. Mary’s not being able to put the ball in the net,” Lucas said. “I started wondering if [a goal] was going to happen or not, then I got a great ball from Carly so I was pumped about it.”
After a frustrating start to the season, losing six of their first seven games of 2017, the Sea Gulls have turned it around at the right time, going into a five-game stretch of conference games to end the season. With this important end to the season, SU feels they are getting into their groove when it matters.
“We’re connecting really well,” Boller said. “We know how each other play now up top and the defense as well.”
Coach Lloyd can see it too, with their home loss to Catholic almost a month ago waking up the offense and fueling the defense to this impressive run. Salisbury and Lloyd have destiny in their hands, and they see the goal in front of them.
“We’re realizing these games are so important at the end of the season, we want home games in the playoffs,” Tacka said.
Salisbury has their chance to keep moving forward in CAC play on Wednesday at home against Marymount (Va.) (2-7-2, 1-3 CAC).