By CHRIS MACKOWIAK
This Saturday marks the advent of the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) playoffs, with men’s soccer and women’s soccer first round action starting this weekend. Below The Flyer takes a look at each match-up this week alongside analysis of SU women’s volleyball’s still to be determined position.
No. 3 SU women’s soccer vs. No. 6 Penn St.-Harrisburg, 2 p.m. Saturday
While Salisbury (9-9, 7-2 CAC) did not gain a bye into the conference semifinals with a No. 2 seed, they did receive a favorable match-up and home field advantage in the CAC first round on Saturday.
Penn State – Harrisburg (11-7, 4-5 CAC) comes into the conference playoffs as the sixth and final seed. The Lady Lions finished the season falling in three of their final four matches.
In their match this season, Salisbury came away with a 2-0 victory over PSH on Homecoming. SU tallied 27 shots in the victory, their second highest total in 2017.
The Lady Lions’ potent attack highlights their team, averaging 2.33 goals per game this season. Junior forward Kristen Stark leads the team with her 13 goals, which is second in the CAC.
Stellar defense has marked the play of the Sea Gulls, allowing only a 0.34 goals-against average (GAA) in CAC-play. All seven of Salisbury’s conference wins ended in a Sea Gull clean sheet.
Senior forward Ruthie Lucas leads an SU team onto the field that averages 1.50 goals per game. Lucas leads Salisbury with 10 goals this season, her most in a season.
If the Sea Gulls get the win Saturday, they will travel to No. 2 Frostburg State for a Wednesday match-up with the winner headed to the CAC Championship. The Bobcats defeated Salisbury 1-0 in the regular season.
No. 5 SU men’s soccer at No. 4 York (Pa.), 6 p.m. Saturday
With a 6-1 victory over Wesley on Wednesday, Salisbury locked up their first CAC Tournament appearance under Head Coach Alex Hargrove. However, fourth-seeded York ‘upset’ St. Mary’s (Md.) too, which gave the Spartans the home-field advantage in this match.
Salisbury (8-8-2, 4-3-2 CAC) ended the season not falling in their last five matches, going 3-0-2. One of those games was their lone meeting with York.
In a physical battle, York scored an early goal for the 1-0 lead. It was a goal from SU sophomore midfielder Ryan Spadin that drew things even with just a few minutes left. After both periods of overtime, the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
The Sea Gulls boast the top GAA in the CAC once again at 0.89. It has helped a struggling offense stay in games throughout the season. Salisbury is sixth in the CAC in goals per game.
While the Spartans do score at a strong clip, scoring 2.18 goals per game, their defense has been porous this season, allowing 1.81 goals per game. Attacking the Sea Gull defense is offensive catalyst freshman forward Zion Friday, leading the team in goals and assists.
The winner of Saturday’s match will move on to Newport News, Va. to play against the CAC regular season champions Christopher Newport. As the top-seed, the Captains host the CAC Semifinals with the winner heading to the CAC Championship next Saturday.
Salisbury volleyball picture
Salisbury and Wesley are the only teams finished with their CAC-play this season. SU now must await the final matches Friday and Saturday to see where they will finish.
With CNU essentially locking up the No. 1 seed in the conference playoffs, Salisbury can finish in any place from second to fifth with York (Pa.), Southern Virginia and Mary Washington. The picture will become much clearer after Friday with many tie breakers also playing a factor for Salisbury.
Stay tuned to The Flyer for an update on the playoff picture later Friday night. If Salisbury finishes in the third or fourth spots, they would host a CAC first round match Tuesday night.
No. 2 SU field hockey vs. No. 3 York (Pa.), 6 p.m. Wednesday
After losing to top-seed CNU in their first conference game of the season, Salisbury bounced back with shutouts across their remaining five games, finishing second in the CAC at 5-1 (11-3 overall).
With the two-seed, Salisbury moves into the CAC Semifinals, hosting fellow-ranked team York in rematch of a 3-0 SU victory earlier this season.
In her first season coaching the Spartan, Salisbury-alum Katie Fost has led the Spartans into prime position for a playoff run. York (12-5, 4-2 CAC) has consistently appeared in the weekly national rankings, potentially looking ahead to an NCAA Tournament appearance.
For SU, the Sea Gulls under long-time Head Coach Dawn Chamberlin look to return to the NCAA Semifinals after their run last season. Salisbury will try to do that behind a defense allowing 0.57 goals per game this season.
York has put up similar numbers offensively as the Sea Gulls but have struggled to keep pace defensively, allowing 1.79 goals per game.
The winner of the match will have a date with either No. 1 CNU or the winner of No.4 Mary Washington/No. 5 St. Mary’s in the CAC Championship next Saturday.
Cross-country CAC Championships – Newport News, Va.; 11 a.m. Saturday
Christopher Newport has found much success recently in CAC cross-country, but Salisbury looks to make an impact on the road to finish out their 2017 campaign.
Freshman David Strickland and Sophomore Branson Oduor have seen success this season and lead SU into the meet on Saturday, while senior Alison Schwartz and sophomore Christine Sturm are primed on the women’s side.