Top-seed Gulls set for CAC semifinal showdown against No.5-seeded Captains

Top-seed Gulls set for CAC semifinal showdown against No.5-seeded Captains

SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 9 and top-seeded Salisbury University men's soccer team takes the field on Wednesday, November 5, against fifth-seeded Christopher Newport University in a Capital Athletic Conference semifinal match at the SU Soccer Complex. First touch is set for 2 p.m. 

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How we got here 

The Sea Gulls have put together another impressive run in the conference, only dropping one contest through nine matches for a 6-1-2 record, good enough for the No. 1 seed in the CAC tournament and the privilege of being named regular-season champions for the fourth-consecutive season. Receiving a first-round bye, SU will meet its first conference contender on Wednesday in the Captains. 

How they got here

Christopher Newport dropped two matches throughout regular-season conference play, a 2-1 decision to the University of Mary Washington and a 3-1 defeat to Penn State University-Harrisburg. With a record of 4-2-3 in the CAC, the Captains earned the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament. CNU traveled to Fredericksburg, Virginia to open postseason play, looking for redemption against No. 4-seeded Mary Washington, where the Captains pulled the 2-0 upset to advance to the CAC semifinals against the Sea Gulls. 

Series History 

Dating back to 1982, the Sea Gulls and Captains have battled out on the turf through 26 matches with SU holding the 16-8-2 edge. Salisbury has faired out well in the SU Soccer Complex, maintaining an 11-2-1 record against CNU. With the Captains joining the CAC in the 2013 season, Salisbury hasn't dropped a contest to them, defeating them last year, 3-1, and playing to a 1-1 draw earlier this season on the Gulls' home turf. 

The last time we met 

Salisbury welcomed Christopher Newport to the SU Soccer Complex earlier this season on Thursday, October 23, and played to a 1-1 draw. The Captains struck first in the 57th minute on an unassisted finish by Preston Key. It only took six minutes after that for the Gulls to capitalize on their opportunity following a penalty inside the 18-yard box. Being awarded a penalty-kick opportunity, senior forward Tanner East stepped up and placed a right-side finish for the game-tying goal. In the 1-1 effort, junior goalkeeper Drew Staedeli turned away five shots through 110 minutes tending the net. 

Scouting the Captains 

The CNU offense, led by 2013 All-American Jalon Brown, has scored 59 goals to this point in the season, ranking it eighth in the country in the category. Brown, alone, has recorded 17 finishes, placing him ninth in the nation, while Patrick Burns, who works with him in the front field, has tallied 11 helpers, good enough for 10th best in the country. Switching sides of the field, the Captains defense has seen a lot of action through the season, giving up 26 goals for a 1.18 goals-against average, placing it fourth in the conference and 157th in the country. 

Familiar foe in the CAC 

Salisbury has fallen one time all season, and it just so happens that the loss is very familiar for the Captains as well. On Saturday, October 11, the Gulls traveled to Middletown, Pennsylvania where, at the hands of Penn State-Harrisburg, dropped a 1-0 decision for their lone loss of the 2014 campaign. Two weeks later, the Lions welcomed the Captains, handing them a 3-1 defeat. PSU landed the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, receiving a first-round bye, and will face off against sixth-seeded St. Mary's College of Maryland on Wednesday for a semifinal match. 

Impenetrable wall 

Putting together another fantastic year for the Sea Gulls is the backline, led by seniors Kyle Westbrook, Logan Becker and Jeff Byrnes and junior Cy McNeill. Last season, the Gulls defense finished with a 0.49 goals-against average, good enough for sixth best in the country. The backline has topped that feat this year, only allowing eight goals through 18 matches for a 0.42 GAA, ranking it sixth in the country currently and the top in the conference. Of the 18 games, 11 have been recorded as clean sheets for the Sea Gulls, landing them 15th in the nation in shutout percentage with a 0.61. Directing the field from the net again this season is Staedeli, who is putting together a record-setting career. With his 0.38 GAA, eighth best among all goalkeepers in Division III, the Ellicott City, Maryland native now maintains a 0.45 GAA through his career, placing him at No. 1 in the program record book in the category. 

What's at stake? 

The winner of Wednesday's match will advance to the CAC championship against the winner of the other semifinal match between second-seeded Penn State-Harrisburg and sixth-seeded St. Mary's (Md.). The championship is set for Saturday, November 8, at the highest-remaining seed with the time to be announced. 

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