By ZACH GILLELAND
Win and you are in. That was the story of a team Wednesday that seemed to be on the outside looking in a few weeks ago.
The Sea Gulls are heading to the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Tournament as the fifth seed.
Facing Wesley (3-15, 1-8) for the final time in CAC play, Salisbury (8-8-2, 4-3-2) put on an offensive clinic, defeating the Wolverines 6-1 on Wednesday to punch their ticket to the CAC tournament.
An offense that ranked sixth in the CAC in goals-per-game with a 1.35 average, the six goals account for the most the team has scored this season. Five different Sea Gulls found the back of the net.
“Just a little more patience, swinging the ball from side to side a little bit and waiting for the right gaps to open up,” SU Head Coach Alex Hargrove said.
Following the win, Salisbury is now unbeaten in its last five matchups, going 3-0-2. A season in which the team struggled to find consistency, the final stretch included a draw against Christopher Newport and a 1-0 road win against fellow CAC Tournament hopeful Frostburg St. that helped solidify the team’s spot in the playoffs.
Missing the playoffs last season, 16 new faces joined a roster that has a mix of youth and veteran talent. Amid winning and losing streaks, Hargrove said he is pleased with the maturity of his young team.
“This was obviously a really young team to start the year,” Hargrove said. “There is a great leadership in every one of our five seniors who have been nothing but positive in reinforcing everything we have been looking to try and do across the whole season. Some of these young guys have matured an awful lot over the course of these 18 games and we are starting to see the realities of that as we go late into the season.”
Senior forward Brooks Zentgraf kicked off the scoring just three and a half minutes into the game. Fed by sophomore midfielder Ryan Spadin, the senior netted a left-footed shot from just inside the box.
The SU offense worked efficiently passing the ball throughout the match, registering an assist on five of their six goals. Spadin was at the forefront of the offensive attack, finding key passing lanes and high percentage opportunities inside the box.
Spadin has taken a starting role this season, starting 17 of 18 games this season after accumulating one start in 2016.
“He sees the field in a very different way,” Hargrove said. “He sees space, moves into it and finds it in a way that nobody on our team really does. His awareness once he gets into the attacking third is just something that is a little different compared to some of the other guys we have on our team.”
Freshman forward Joseph Scarpinato added his second goal of the season just four minutes late to increase the lead to two eight minutes into the match. Fellow freshmen Josh Woozly and Peter Gutoskey added their first career goals.
Sophomore defender Stephen White added two goals to tie him for the team lead. White’s four shots on the season have all connected for goals.
The Wesley defense struggled to contain Salisbury from finding open looks. Although only tallying 10 shots in the match, the Sea Gull offense worked efficiently getting through the Wolverine back line, working through-balls and creating space for the wingers to attack the ball.
“Pretty much everything [clicked],” Zentgraf said. “We had the forwards working with our midfielders, a lot of give and goes and obviously we had a 60 percent shot percentage so everything was clicking for us.”
A York (Pa.) win over St. Mary’s (Md.) means Salisbury clinches the fifth seed in the CAC Tournament. The Sea Gulls will travel to York to face the fourth-seeded Spartans on Saturday.