Softball vows to be even better in 2015

2/24/15

NICK DIMATTEO

Staff Writer

@Nick_DiMatteo93

As the final innings came to a close of the 2014 women’s softball Division III National Championship the Salisbury University Sea Gulls had their remarkable season come to an end losing the series to Tufts, 2-1.

For their efforts in the 2014 season, head coach Marge Knight and her coaching staff were named the NFCA Atlantic Region Coaching Staff of the Year for the third straight season and now, the Salisbury women’s softball team is about to begin their journey in 2015 in order to capture a national championship.
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Balanced backcourt duo drives Sea Gulls’ women’s basketball team

2/24/15

MITCHELL NORTHAM
Sports Editor
@primetimeMitch

According to Chinese theory, Yin and Yang describes how opposite forces actually work together to be complimentary. Yin is a passive and calm force while Yang is the energetic and aggressive force.

The term can be applied for two senior guards on Salisbury University’s women’s basketball team too. While Sarah Seipp is the emotional voice of the team and a player who is willing to take more chances, her backcourt mate Anna Hackett is a bit more quiet and steadies her team with her calm demeanor.

“They bring out differences in each other, so as coach – knowing what we need from each player – it has helped us because they just bring it out of each other,” Sea Gulls’ head coach Kelly Lewandowski said.

Sarah Seipp and Anna Hackett have shared a backcourt dating back to AAU days. (Photo: Mitchell Northam)

Sarah Seipp and Anna Hackett have shared a backcourt dating back to AAU days. (Photo: Mitchell Northam)

Both players have different attitudes and styles of play on the court, but as different as they are, both complement each other and push the team as a whole to a different level of success. They are effective for the team as one because they are different, and that’s why the nickname given to them by their head coach – Yin and Yang – is so appropriate.

“Sarah plays on the edge. She has a lot of enthusiasm, she’s really aggressive when she plays and takes a few more chances while Anna is a little more reserved. She’s a little bit more calm and not as emotional as Sarah and sets us up and gets us into what we’re doing,” Lewandowski said.

Hackett and Seipp’s different playing styles have been effective this season as the backcourt duo has helped lead the Sea Gulls to a No. 15 ranking in all of Division III women’s basketball and a 23-2 overall record. The Sea Gulls are first in the Capital Athletic Conference and have secured the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament beginning this week.

The success as a team is the best the duo has been a part of since they have been Sea Gulls, but Hackett and Seipp’s playing days together dates back as far as their sophomore years of high school when the two linked up on a local AAU team.

“With that team everything just flowed well,” Hackett said. “We had a lot of guards – we were really fast and ran all the time which is how we like to play. We just worked really well together.”

On that team is where they first started building chemistry that has made them as effective as they are today as a backcourt tandem for the Sea Gulls that combines for 38.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists and four steals per-game on average.

The two played AAU basketball together throughout high school, but only played in a high school league game just once against each other during their sophomore careers when Hackett’s Clarksburg high team lost a battle against Seipp’s Gaithersburg squad. The schools are just 20 minutes apart, but because Clarksburg was so much smaller and newer a rivalry didn’t exist.

As a senior, Seipp led her team to an undefeated season and a 4A Maryland State Championship.

“(Seipp’s) team was a lot better, they went to states consistently and mine struggled a bit more,” Hackett said.

Though they only played against each other once in high school, the two met on the court again as freshman and sophomores in college when Seipp was playing at Virginia Wesleyan and when Hackett was a Sea Gull. But while she wore a blue and white jersey for the Marlins, in the back of Seipp’s mind was the possibility of transferring and wearing maroon and gold for the Sea Gulls.

She liked Salisbury not just because it presented an opportunity to share a backcourt with Hackett again, but both of her brothers graduated from Salisbury and she liked that it was bigger than her current school.

“I didn’t have much of a pitch because she already wanted to come here her freshman year when I wasn’t the coach here yet,” Lewandowski said. “So when we heard from her the second time I think she was on board. It was more of the school than anything else.”

Despite being swayed into staying at Virginia Wesleyan for her freshman and sophomore campaigns, Seipp finally transferred to Salisbury prior to her junior year. Hackett played a role in influencing her decision and the two became roommates shortly after Seipp arrived.

In their first season back together there was some adjustment, but after a few games in, they started clicking again once they redefined their roles for the team. Both can handle the ball, run an offense, shoot, pass, rebound and play defense at a high level, but Hackett is more suited for the point guard as the calm leader and an outside shooter, while Seipp’s energetic style makes her more aggressive inside as a slasher, defender and rebounder.

“Sarah can run the point too, so it’s a little bit like AAU in that sense where either one of us can bring the ball up the court, but typically I’m running the point,” Hackett said. “She has the energy and I make sure the energy is used effectively.”

Once again, their playing styles live up to the nickname.

“We have our weaknesses but I feel like we complement each other well,” Seipp said. “I’m hype and energetic and all over the place and she kind of calms it down.”

Both want to be involved with basketball in one way or another after they graduate, but it’s fitting that Hackett wants to be behind the scenes in a management and marketing role while Seipp has aspirations of yelling from a bench as a coach.

But before graduation arrives, the duo still has a season to finish with one goal still in mind: winning the CAC title and throwing their hat into the ring for the NCAA tournament.

A recent loss at Marymount, just their second of the season, helped put that goal and the season into perspective.

“It’s obviously tough to lose especially when we’re on a winning streak but we still have playoffs to look forward to and we still have all the same goals of trying to win the conference and make it to NCAA play,” Hackett said. “So we’re just going to take that loss and look at things we can work on so it doesn’t happen again. The mindset is a little different. We’ve really been pushing for the CAC Championship because with six seniors, if we don’t get it this year then we’re not going to get it.”

Sea Gulls to host CAC Championship after win fueled by Smith’s double-double

2/27/15
RICKY POLLITT
Staff Writer
@rickypollitt52

With the snow preventing some Salisbury University fans from attending the game, it certainly did not stop the men’s basketball team from continuing their journey and reaching the Capital Athletic Conference Championship game for the first time in nine years.

The Sea Gulls defeated Mary Washington 59-52  at Maggs Physical Activities Center to give head coach Josh Merkel his first conference title appearance since taking over as head coach of the Sea Gulls in 2011.

“Win number twenty is our goal,” Merkel said. “There’s really no emotion, we’re just ready to play another game.”


After starting the game on an 8-0 run, the Sea Gulls dominated the first half, and were able to grab a 10-point lead going into halftime. Junior forward Wyatt Smith led all players with 13 points in the first half and went on to record his eighth double-double of the season with 24 points and 14 rebounds.

“I just keep my energy up and realize if you put yourself in the positions, box out and take care of the little things, the ball finds you,” Smith said. “Emotionally it’s a good feeling, but I don’t feel satisfied until we get the job done.”

Despite a dominant start to the game, Salisbury never could put the Eagles away. Midway through the second half, Mary Washington cut the Sea Gulls’ lead to four points and had several fans on the edge of their seats.

With two layups from Smith, and a swished shot from behind the arc from sophomore guard Justin Witmer, Salisbury was able to regain their double-digit lead with just over three minutes left in the game.

“As long as we focus in, play defense and treat every possession like it’s the start of the game, everything will work out,” Smith said.

Along with the high powered offense, Salisbury’s defense was able to shut down the Eagles when they needed to most. The Sea Gulls crashed the boards as well and finished with 36 rebounds and scored 11 points off of second-chance buckets.

“It started on the defensive end, we were able to get some looks and able to stick them in,” junior forward Kyle Savercool said.

The victory gives Salisbury a date with the tournament’s fourth seed – Christopher Newport, who the Sea Gulls defeated twice this season and ended the Sea Gulls run last season in the CAC’s in an overtime loss.

“Christopher Newport came in here last year and played very well. We need to trust each other and play forty minutes,” Merkel said. “It’s going to be a great college basketball game.”

Salisbury’s men’s basketball team will not be the only maroon and gold team competing for a conference championship on Saturday. The women’s team will also compete for a title after defeating York College, 76-61 in the semi-finals. It will be the first time in school history both teams compete the same year for the CAC Championship.

“It’s going to be a battle. We just have to come out and do our thing and expect everything,” Smith said.

Sea Gulls’ women’s basketball punches title game ticket behind strong play from senior trio

2/27/15
DIAMOND HOLTON
Staff Writer
@_PensAndWords_

The Salisbury University women’s basketball team prolonged their post-season run on Thursday night and defeated fifth-seeded York College of Pennsylvania in the Capital Athletic Conference semifinals, 76-61, inside Maggs’ Physical Activity Center.

<span “font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:=”” “garamond”,”serif””=””>The Sea Gulls (24-2, 18-1 CAC) had three seniors score in double figures as Anna Hackett notched 21 points and eight assists, Sarah Seipp scored 18 points to go with seven assists and four steals and forward Melanie Mocniak registered her second double-double of the season, scoring 17 points to pair with 10 rebounds.

<span “font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:=”” “garamond”,”serif””=””>Hackett and Seipp usually find themselves as the top scorers on most nights, but with Mocniak finding her groove in the paint in the second half, it added a third scorer for the Sea Gulls and made it easier for the pair of guards to score.

<span “font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:=”” “garamond”,”serif””=””>“When people are focusing on Sarah and Anna a lot it’s nice to have that extra element of Melanie because it opens up the floor for Anna and Sarah – then we have three threats that they have to worry about,” Sea Gulls’ head coach Kelly Lewandowski said.


<span “font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:=”” “garamond”,”serif””=””>This was the third matchup between the two teams and Salisbury ended the regular season with a second-half comeback and a 75-69 victory at York (12-15, 7-12 CAC) this past Saturday.

<span “font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:=”” “garamond”,”serif””=””>This matchup was no different and the Sea Gulls would need a second-half surge to come back. York took control of the game from the start shooting 51.7 percent from the floor in the first half, knocking down three shots from behind the arc. In the first half, 20 of their points were in the paint and seven came from off the bench as Spartans’ senior Shea Wassel scored 14 points and seven rebounds before intermission.

<span “font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:=”” “garamond”,”serif””=””>The Spartans managed to get a 10-point lead, but not before Seipp sank a three-pointer with a minute left to play in the first half.

Lewandowski talked to her team at halftime about what they needed to do in the second half. She said getting in the inside and attacking with the dribble toward the basket would be the key against York’s size and length.

<span “font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:=”” “garamond”,”serif””=””>“Attacking in general is what made the difference for us offensively and I think we were playing a little passive and not hitting the boards as hard and trying to stay in on the perimeter,” she said.

<span “font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:=”” “garamond”,”serif””=””>In the second half, Mocniak closed the gap on the deficit with a solid jumper off an assist from Seipp and then tied it up with back-to-back shots. She scored 13 of her 17 points in the second half and most of her work was done in the post with a strong surge of emotion.

“The first half I was just exhausted like I couldn’t do what the team needed,” Mocniak said. “I kept getting burned on offense and in the second half I realized I had to pick it up. I couldn’t let (York’s) players keep doing the same thing to me and I just tried to fix that.”

<span “font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:=”” “garamond”,”serif””=””>In addition to Mocniak’s solid play in the second half, the team switched things up and started attacking and scored 14 points in the paint and 19 points from second-chance shots by crashing the offensive boards. They got the free throw line as well, knocking down eight-of-13 shots from the charity stripe.

<span “font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:=”” “garamond”,”serif””=””>The Sea Gulls’ went on 10-1 run to take a commanding nine-point lead with under two minutes to play. Seipp, Hackett and Mocniak led the way on that run but it was capped off by a three-point shot from Courtney McManus – who finished with six points and six rebounds – that gave the Sea Gulls a nine-point lead and proved to be the dagger as the maroon and gold coasted to the win from there.

<span “font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:=”” “garamond”,”serif””=””>“Everyone came ready to play. Not one point was just one person, everyone stepped up,” Seipp said. “That’s what’s really great is that we can rely on several different people.”

<span “font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:=”” “garamond”,”serif””=””>This victory sends them to the CAC Championship game which they will host on Saturday, facing off against the University of Mary Washington at 2 p.m.

SU Women’s Basketball takes CAC championship

3/1/15

DIAMOND HOLTON
Staff Writer
@_PensAndWords_

The Salisbury University women’s basketball team became the 2015 Capital Athletic Conference Champions in a double overtime win against the University of Mary Washington, 74-68, in Maggs Gymnasium.

It was not an easy matchup for the Sea Gulls as they struggled early on being outscored and out-rebounded throughout the game. The Eagles had 31 total rebounds in the first half (22 being defensive), while the Sea Gulls only had 16 total.

The scoring by Mary Washington (20-7, 15-3 CAC) was evenly divided while Salisbury had senior Anna Hackett in double figures with 11 points (26 total) and the remainder of the team not over three points, respectively. The Eagles were also too big for Salisbury in the post making major plays inside scoring in the paint.

Senior Courtney McManus and sophomore Lauren Rothfield sunk back-to-back three-pointers to take the lead with under six minutes in the first, but UMW get off some quick jumpers to take back the lead headed to halftime, 29-23.

Sea Gulls (25-2, 17-1 CAC) held on to their ritual of second half comebacks as they went on a 16-3 run from the start with major hustle from Hackett. She drilled a three-pointer followed by a steal and assist to senior Sarah Seipp to bring the Gulls within one.

“This is what we tend to do, especially lately,” Hackett said. “It was a close game the whole time.”

After leading the game by seven off a 13-1 run, McManus shot a jumper to put SU up with under 10 minutes left in the half. The Eagles did not give up keeping the game tied at 50 with fewer than two minutes to go.

Some costly fouls put the Eagles up by four late in the game and sent senior Melanie Mocniak to the line to shoot three made free throws. With the game tied at 57, Mocniak blocked a shot, sending her team to overtime.

Mocniak came out shooting a three-pointer as Salisbury was down with 42.2 seconds left. The Eagles fouled Mocniak again sending her to the line shooting three more made free throws.

“I was so nervous and the first time I was really nervous and the second time I was not as nervous,” she said. “I was just like we got this and I know we can do it and this moment was meant to be for us. When I shot the second set of three’s and the second shot went in and out; that was really nerve-wrecking.”

A questionable foul sent Seipp to the bench because of foul trouble as the Eagles sunk both free throw attempts to put them up by two with 13 seconds left. Hackett found Kathy Albornoz in the paint for the game-tying lay-up sending them to double overtime.

Mary Washington fired a three which was followed by a three from Mocniak and another jumper. Hackett and Albornoz score two points apiece to extend their lead as McManus came through with a block that sealed the win.

Coach Kelly Lewandowski had never been more proud of her team and was ultimately in shock for this moment.

“Three of my seniors have been with me since my very first year when they were freshman, so it’s neat to see that this is what we’ve been talking about for four years and how hard they’ve worked to change this program and move it in the right direction,” Lewandowski said.

This win puts the Sea Gulls’ bid in the NCAA Tournament. Place and venue and their selection will be announced in the upcoming week.

Men’s Basketball wins CAC Championship; advances to NCAA Tournament

3/1/15

RICKY POLLITT
Staff Writer
@rickypollitt52

As the scoreboard hit zero, Maggs Physical Activities Center was in a sea of maroon and gold. The men’s basketball team had won their first CAC Championship in 13 years, and the Sea Gulls made sure it would be a game to remember.

In a game that was back-and-forth until the end, Salisbury defeated the fourth seed Christopher Newport Captains to give the Sea Gulls the victory they had long searched for.

With 0.7 seconds left on the clock and the score 57-56, in favor of Christopher Newport, junior forward Wyatt Smith went to the foul line shooting two of the most important shots of his life.

“Coach looked at me and told me he loved me,” Smith said. “I felt really empowered by that situation and a lot of players really get caught up in the moment. Take (the shots) one at a time and shoot them.”

Smith was able to make not one, but both free throws that gave Salisbury the lead with under one second left in the game.

Finally after one last attempt by CNU, it was over; Salisbury was victorious.

“These guys will look back ten or 20 years from now and just remember how special the moment was,” Sea Gulls head coach Josh Merkel said. “My four years here, I didn’t get to play in a championship game, but for those guys to have that experience was tremendous.”

Christopher Newport gave Salisbury a run for the title late in the game. The Captains led by six with just under two minutes left to play.

The Captains also took out one of the Sea Gulls’ most impactful players in sophomore guard Justin Witmer, holding him to zero points on the day.

“That’s one of the best things about our team, we don’t rely on one guy,” Merkel said. “(Witmer) did do well for us defensively.”

One player that stepped up and put the team on his back for the majority of the game was sophomore forward Gordon Jeter. With a team leading 14 points and 7 rebounds, Jeter gave Salisbury a spark in several key situations.

“We have a chance to make history here; that’s all I’ve been thinking about,” Jeter said. “All my coaches tell me to be in position, do your work early, and I just found myself able to make plays because I was in the right position.”

The men’s team were not the only ones celebrating today. Both Salisbury basketball teams won the CAC Championship as the women defeated Mary Washington 74-68 in double overtime. It is the first time since 1992 that the school has completed the task.

“I’m equally happy for the women’s team. We’re just excited for our student athletes, and to have that great experience, that doesn’t happen for every athlete.”

The victory not only makes Salisbury champions of one of the most competitive conferences in Division III, but it also gives them an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re going to prepare the same way we have every day all season,” Smith said. “Every practice is a championship for us, every game is a championship for us, so we’re going to take it a day at a time and try and get the job done.”