BY CHRIS MACKOWIAK
Featured photo: SU players huddle up during a pause in the action. Oct. 17. Brendan Link photo
As October continues to draw to a close, the fall Salisbury University sports teams see the approaching challenge of playoffs on the horizon. Wednesday marked the end of the regular season for three varsity sports as the path to a Capital Athletic Conference crown became a bit clearer.
Here is where each of the team varsity sports stands for the approaching CAC tournaments and the end of New Jersey Athletic Conference football season:
The SU field hockey team (14-2, 5-0 CAC) enters as the only Sea Gull squad to be a No. 1 seed this fall in the conference playoffs. Salisbury will try to rebound after falling on the road at Christopher Newport last season in the CAC championship.
Since the 1995 season, the Sea Gulls have only not been crowned conference champions three times (2010, 2012 and 2017). The five-time national champions will once again have the power to force the conference championship to run through Sea Gull Stadium.
As a top-two seed, Salisbury received a bye into the CAC semifinals, taking place Wednesday night in Sea Gull Stadium against either No. 4 University of Mary Washington or No. 5 St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
UMW (10-5, 2-3 CAC) will host the CAC First Round game on Sunday as the higher seed. The Eagles fell to Salisbury 5-0 on the road on Oct. 13. St. Mary’s (7-8, 1-4 CAC) also did not fare well against the Sea Gulls, falling 4-0 at home last Saturday.
Rounding out the rest of the conference seedings are No. 2 York (Pa.), No. 3 Christopher Newport and No. 6 Frostburg State.
Still in the midst of their season, the SU football team (7-0, 6-0 NJAC) currently sits in first place in the NJAC. With two games of separation, Frostburg State is the only other team undefeated in conference play alongside the Sea Gulls.
Salisbury will face its toughest tests of the season in this final three-game stretch as the Sea Gulls go on the road at Rowan (5-2, 4-2 NJAC) and host Wesley (5-2, 4-2 CAC) before finishing in the Regents Cup with FSU (6-0, 5-0 NJAC).
For SU to return to the NCAA tournament with the NJAC crown for the first time since 2015, the path is an easy one: win out and SU is in. However, if rough patches do come the team’s way, an interesting variable could come into play.
Since impacts from Hurricane Florence caused FSU’s game against CNU to be canceled a few weeks ago, FSU is now on the losing end of any tiebreakers it encounters. Therefore, if a crazy ending comes to the NJAC, the Sea Gulls would have the upper hand on the Bobcats regardless of their head-to-head result.
Tied for first entering the final match day, SU (11-3-2, 4-2-1 CAC) was dreaming of becoming the top seed in the tournament if it could find the right results on the day. Instead, York found the back of the net five times as Salisbury lost 5-0 on the road.
Despite St. Mary’s also falling to CNU on the day, the Seahawks earned the two seed via their 1-0 win over Salisbury earlier this season. SU will enter Saturday as the third seed, hosting No. 6 CNU in the CAC First Round.
Salisbury and CNU (7-8, 3-4 CAC) just recently matched up in CAC play on Oct. 17. A late goal gave SU the 1-0 home victory for its first win over the Captains since 2013. CNU will have a chance for revenge of that result on the road Saturday.
The other CAC seedings are as follows: No. 1 UMW, No. 2 St. Mary’s, No. 4 Frostburg State, No. 5 York, No. 7 Penn State Harrisburg and No. 8 Southern Virginia.
With still a road match at Frostburg State coming later this week, SU volleyball (13-9, 2-4 CAC) already knows part of its fate for the CAC playoffs ahead. The Sea Gulls will not host a CAC First Round match when the tournament begins Tuesday night.
Two matches out of the top four currently, SU cannot make up enough ground in time to move into hosting position. Currently tied for the fifth seed, FSU and SU meet Friday night to determine which team will get the top road seed in the first round.
The top four seeds are already determined for the CAC tournament: No. 1 UMW, No. 2 CNU, No. 3 York and No. 4 SVU. Depending on whether the team wins or loses on Friday, SU could see York or SVU.
SU (6-9-1, 3-4 CAC) entered the final match day of the regular season with hopes of earning a host seed for the CAC First Round on Saturday. The perfect formula occurred for the opposite result on Wednesday.
Tied for third with York entering the day, the Sea Gulls fell 2-1 to the Spartans at home. Staying at nine points in the table, SU was leaped over by Frostburg State as the Bobcats defeated Penn State Harrisburg.
One point short, the results meant that the Sea Gulls were left as the fifth seed for the first round on Saturday, having to travel to Frostburg State (5-10-1, 3-3-1 CAC) on Saturday. Salisbury fell at home 1-0 to the Bobcats earlier this season.
The rest of the CAC field is as follows: No. 1 CNU, No. 2 UMW, No. 3 York, No. 6 St. Mary’s, No. 7 Penn State Harrisburg and No. 8 SVU.