By CHRIS MACKOWIAK
Featured photo: Sophomore forward Kevin Eriksen watches his shot hit the back of the net for Salisbury’s opening goal against Neumann. Emma Reider photo
The beginning of the 2017 season was not so fortunate to the Salisbury University men’s soccer team (2-1). Last season’s squad went 1-5 before reaching their second win of the campaign in their seventh match of the season. The lonely stretch consisted of only three Sea Gull goals.
Despite a season-opening 2-0 loss to Hobart College, Salisbury is seeing a much different start to their 2018 season. With six goals over the course of the last two games, the Sea Gulls now are seeing a higher goal production than that of last season, when SU reached their sixth goal seven matches in.
Tuesday evening, SU matched their Saturday victory with a similar 3-0 win over the visiting Neumann University Knights (1-1-1). With the victory, SU has scored six times over two games, with both matches registered as clean sheets.
“It feels like we’re really coming together as a team,” SU sophomore forward Kevin Eriksen said. “[Coach Cam Wilson] has really been stressing to get in behind the back line and just be dangerous. I think we did a really good job of that today.”
The Sea Gulls began their scoring effort in the 19th minute of the match. SU senior midfielder Robbie Budd entered the right side of Neumann’s box serving a ball low across the ground and frame of goal.
Passing junior winger Matt Hawkins, the ball fell to the feet of Eriksen, who slotted the ball into the back of the net. Eriksen has started at the top of Salisbury’s formation in all three matches this season, with results coming from it.
“I saw Robbie Budd take it to the end line. I called for it. He played it across. I just was in the right spot and I put it in,” Eriksen said.
Six shots came from the Sea Gulls in the first half, with the primary SU chances coming in the second chapter of the night. Eriksen’s scoring effort was not yet quelled on the night, scoring in the 60th minute on the right side well outside of the box. The goal marked his third in two games for the Sea Gulls.
“He’s taken his chances, especially with that second goal today. He saw an opportunity and took it,” SU head coach Alex Hargrove said. “Part of Kevin being in positions to be able to do that is in large part due to the competition he’s gotten in training day in and day out.”
With an additional nine shots in the second half, including a Peter Gutoskey long bender, Salisbury extended their lead out of reach of the Knights. Neumann found difficulty getting started on the offensive end, registering only six shots and three corner kicks in the match.
The lack of Neumann’s chances meant a quiet day was in store for SU senior goalkeeper Trevor Brookhart, who accumulated three saves. SU junior center back Trent Hofmeister attributes the successful defense to the unit’s hustling to stop opposing runs.
“Honestly, everyone just getting back to stop the ball,” said Hofmeister, who transferred in from CCBC Essex. “Everybody coming back and working together to get behind the ball.”
Overall, it was a frustrating night for the Knights. Neumann’s leading goal-scorer so far this season, freshman Gavin Ford, did not register a single shot in the match. Also, Neumann starting goalkeeper Shane Smith had to exit the match just before halftime due to an issue with playing equipment.
The match was a colorful one as well, with eight total yellow cards offered by the head referee John Brady, five to Neumann while SU received three. The two teams combined for 31 fouls. Despite the win, Hargrove would like to see greater consistency across the match.
“I think there’s a lot to be worked on, especially in the attacking half,” Hargrove said. “To go in at the half with just six shots is just not good enough in a game where we had so much of the ball. We have to consistently be more dangerous throughout the 90 minutes of the match.”
With momentum in their wings, the Sea Gulls now have their sights set across the Chesapeake Bay at St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s annual Seahawk Classic. Salisbury will face Bridgewater (Va.) and Virginia Wesleyan this weekend before returning home on Sept. 12 for a match against Washington College.