SALISBURY, Md. - The seventh-ranked Salisbury University women's lacrosse team is looking to get back to the national stage and make another run in the NCAA tournament after the shortened 2020 season.
"I expect a lot of success and growth out of the team this season," said head coach Jim Nestor, who is entering his 20th season at the helm, "There's plenty of leadership coming out of the seniors and upperclassmen and their experience will help lead to the younger players that had their seasons cut short last year and are new to the squad."
After a 2019 season where Salisbury finished as national finalists, the team notched a 3-2 record in 2020 before the season was ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Obviously with our season getting cut short last and losing a lot of good players was upsetting, and none of us were excited for that. However, we do return a lot of players and bring in a great group of new players. We are excited to play finally someone besides ourselves. It's been a long year of waiting, but we are ready to get back on the field, play some games, show everyone what we can do and get back to the Final Four weekend."
The Sea Gulls welcome back a strong offensive unit. Leading the pack is senior and two-time All-American Alexis Strobel. A season ago, Strobel led the team with 20 points, a team-high 13 assists, and seven goals. Strobel's 13 assists ranked her second in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC, now Coast-to-Coast Athletic Conference).
Fellow senior Lydia McNulty joins Strobel in the attacking zone. McNulty is coming off of an 11-goal performance in the shortened 2020 season. The senior also tallied two assists for a total of 13 points in five games.
"I am expecting a lot of leadership from Lexi and Lydia this season. Both are very smart players with great field vision and can read the defense very well which helps us find the back of the cage."
Sophomore Erin Scannell is also expected to see a great amount of time on the field this season. Scannell made her name known during her freshman year, scoring eight goals in five games.
Salisbury is depending on communication in the midfield to create a smooth transition up-and-down the field, led by senior Bri Held and junior Delaney Hill. Hill and Held are expected to be key aspects in the Sea Gull midfield.
Sophomore Riley Hartman is also returning and expected to join Hill and Held in the midfield after coming off a five-goal freshman campaign.
"Our midfield is going to be very similar to what it usually is, focusing on getting the ball down the field to the offense as smooth and quick as we can. Slowing down the other team's transition and causing turnovers in the midfield is our goal. The draw controls are the main focus for us, this season. We lost a few good players on that draw circle, but we return a lot of players that can be helpful with winning possession to give the offense opportunities."
The Salisbury backline wants to build on a 2020 season where the squad allowed only 38 goals in five games.
After losing some key players in the defense unit, the Sea Gulls are looking to continue the high-intensity defensive play that has been a calling card of the team. Seniors Carrie Hesen and Kate Lamberti are expected to lead the defense this season. In the five games in 2020, Hesen caused 10 turnovers and picked up nine ground balls while Lamberti tallied seven ground balls and caused four turnovers.
With the loss of Skye Graham due to graduation, the Sea Gulls are looking to see juniors Mary Claire Hisle and sophomore Kaitlyn Hunsinger battle for the starting spot goal this season. Hisle saw time in three games for 27 minutes last season and recorded one save.
"We lost some key players in our defensive unit to graduation, but I am confident in the players that we are returning. With Carrie and Kate leading us, they bring a lot of experience to our defensive unit and can be our anchors on that side of the field. We also return two goalies who are working hard and looking really good so far this season in the cage for us. As a defensive unit, we always focus on communication, and that is the main focus, again, for our defense this season."
The team is scheduled to play 12 games in 2021, including battling four Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association Preseason Top 25 teams throughout the season.
The Sea Gulls open their season with two games on the road when they matchup against the Shenandoah on Saturday, Feb. 27, and on Wednesday, March 3 when they travel to play Rowan.
Salisbury will play its home opener on Wednesday, March 6 against Eastern Shore rival, Washington,
The Coast-to-Coast Athletic Conference (C2C) Tournament is slated to begin on Saturday, April 24 while the C2C Championship is scheduled for Saturday, May 1.
The opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament are scheduled for Saturday, May 8. The NCAA Final Four weekend in Salem, Va. is tabbed for May 22-23.