BY BRANDON STARK
Featured photo: SU midfielder Emma Vicchio secures the ball. Oct. 24. Brendan Link photo
Salisbury came into Wednesday night’s game on a seven-game win streak, having outscored its opponents 31-4 over that span. The strength of this Sea Gulls team not only during this win streak but all year has been their defense.
“[Our team] just communicates a lot on the field and we try not to let [the ball] inside the 25 [yard line on our side of the field]. That is always a goal we talk about in warm-ups, before games,” SU senior midfielder Emma Vicchio said.
The Sea Gulls celebrated their three seniors ahead of the game, which included Vicchio, forward Emily Lemanski and team assistant Jackie Forde.
“It’s a great opportunity we have all had [playing on this team. Coach] Dawn has been coaching here for over 30 years. She has a legacy here,” Lemanski said
Since 1995, the program has dominated Capital Athletic Conference play, having won 20 of the past 23 conference titles, including 15 consecutive titles from 1995 until 2009. Along with the success in the CAC, Salisbury has also seen success on the national level, winning five NCAA Division III titles.
The current roster is still hungry for more championships and to keep the Sea Gulls alive and well.
“[Salisbury field hockey] has a legacy, and [our current players] want to continue this legacy. [Our current team] doesn’t want to be the team or the class that lets that down, so they continue to work hard,” SU head field hockey coach Dawn Chamberlin said.
During the 2016 season, the Sea Gulls made it all the way to the national semifinals in Geneva, N.Y., falling to Tufts University.
“My favorite memory was [the 2016 season] where we made it to final four,” Vicchio said. “I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was such an awesome experience to go up to Geneva, N.Y. as a team.”
While Senior Night provided the seniors with memories of their time in the maroon and gold, Wednesday night featured a key matchup against the No. 15 Christopher Newport University Captains in a battle for the CAC top seed.
After shared possession time to start the game, the Sea Gulls scored less than five minutes into the contest. Junior forward Tara Daddio scored the unassisted goal, her 18th on the year.
The game then resumed into a more defensive battle. Each team had multiple drives into enemy territory, but both defenses held up, leading to Salisbury taking its 1-0 lead into the half.
The Captains outshot the Sea Gulls five to four in the first half, but CNU was unable to capitalize.
CNU came out of halftime aggressively as the Captains focused on tying the game up. After about 10 minutes of applying pressure to Salisbury’s defense, CNU finally scored its first tally. Courtney Fiest scored the unassisted goal off a penalty corner.
The Sea Gulls and Captains battled for the next 22 minutes with both teams looking to score to break the tie. The tight game seemed destined for overtime as the two top-15 teams battled it out in Sea Gull Stadium.
Receiving the ball right outside the goal, SU sophomore forward Jenna Partilla took an initial shot that rebounded back to her. The Gambrills, Md. native then sent a second shot high into the right side of the net, putting SU up 2-1 with 3:26 left in the game.
“I saw the ball coming toward me, stopped it, looked up, saw the [Captains’] goalie there and I just lifted it and put it right behind her head,” Partilla said.
Following a CNU timeout, the Sea Gulls survived the final three-plus minutes of their physical battle with Christopher Newport, defeating the Captains 2-1. With its victory over CNU, Salisbury swept all five of its CAC opponents and clinched the top seed in the CAC playoffs.
“This game between us and Christopher Newport is always a battle. They defeated us twice last year [including 2-1 double overtime loss in the CAC championship] so we had that in the back of our heads,” Chamberlin said.
“We didn’t want to be beat three times in a row. So, we worked really hard and [got the victory tonight], but Christopher Newport is a great opponent and [facing them] always makes a fun game.”
No. 7 Salisbury finished the regular season 14-2 and received a first round bye in the CAC playoffs. The top-seeded Sea Gulls will play their first playoff game on Wednesday, Oct. 31, when Salisbury will face the winner of No. 4 Mary Washington and No. 5 S