Season Preview: Sea Gulls enter 2015 season with experience and leadership, look to compete for CAC championship

Season Preview: Sea Gulls enter 2015 season with experience and leadership, look to compete for CAC championship

SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University women's soccer team and Head Coach Kwame Lloyd are excited for the 2015 season after making a run to the Capital Athletic Conference semifinals last year. The Sea Gulls bring back a lot of experience and leadership and are confident in their ability to bring home the program's fifth CAC championship banner this season.

"Obviously this year we are excited," Lloyd said. "We have 12 seniors coming back, so from that standpoint we are pretty confident."

Lloyd, who is in his third year with the program, expects a lot from the returners but is eager to see what the newcomers will add to the field.

"We know that our returners are going to be solid and familiar with how we want to do things, but I expect the newcomers to add some spark to the team as well," Lloyd said.

Salisbury earned a 10-6-3 overall record and captured a 7-2 mark in the CAC last season before falling to the University of Mary Washington in the conference semifinals, 2-1.

"We had a great opportunity against [Mary Washington], and we couldn't finish it off," Lloyd said. "But that's soccer; you measure yourself based on your growth and your wins and losses, but most of all, you measure yourself based on how the team has progressed."

FORWARDS

A big reason for Lloyd to be confident is the forward position, as SU brings back 30 of its 31 goals from last season to the field, led by seniors Victoria Luc and Logan O'Meara.

"The experience level and the depth of our forward line is something that we are excited about," Lloyd said.

Luc (first-team All-CAC) led the team in scoring in 2014, notching eight goals (fifth in the conference), three of them being game-winners, including the decisive goal in overtime in the 2-1 victory over Southern Virginia University on September 27.

"Victoria came back in phenomenal shape and has been ready to play from the get-go," Lloyd said. "She is anticipating well, her off-ball movement has been great and her touch has been very good, and I think it has a lot to do with her confidence level being very high from last season."

O'Meara tallied seven goals in 2014, which was good for second on the team and a second-team All-CAC nod. The Cranbury, New Jersey native also added an assist in 2014 to accumulate 15 points, which was second-highest on the team.

"Logan has always had that nose for the goal," Lloyd said.

Senior Kandace Racine and sophomore Ruthie Lucas, who combined for a goal and three assists last year, bring back more depth to the position and add to an already threatening offense.

There are also some newcomers to the position, including sophomore transfer Carliane LaGuerre, that Lloyd expects to add to the mix this season.

MIDFIELD

The midfield also has a strong group of returners, including junior Jenny Gavigan, who earned first-team all-conference honors last season. For Gavigan, this was her second-straight CAC post-season accolade, earning second-team honors in 2013. The Finksburg, Maryland native was an important asset in the midfield for Salisbury last year, tying for third on the team in goals with three and scoring the game-winner against Mary Washington on October 18.

"Gavigan is one of those experienced players who was all-conference last season and is getting it done again in preseason this year," Lloyd said.

Seniors Samantha Beck, Christine Clark and Julie Dannenberg combined for five goals in 2014 and will bring senior leadership to the starting line in the midfield, while junior Lauren Minghenelli, who found the back of the net once last year, will bring experience to the position as well.

"The midfield is an incredible group," Lloyd said. "They have played together for three years now, and there is some incredible depth and senior leadership in that position."

DEFENSE

Seniors Casey Arnone (first-team All-CAC in 2014) and Tabitha Brown (third-team All-Region and first-team All-CAC in 2013) are a big part of the solid core of back-line defenders that return for the 2015 season. Arnone was an anchor for the defense all season in 2014, playing and starting in 18 games, while Brown comes back after missing the last 10 games of the season due to injury.

Seniors Heather Deamond and Jackie Lambergman also return after contributing to a stifling defense that recorded a CAC fifth-best 1.10 goals against average last year.

Senior Heather Group, who is returning after a one-year hiatus with the program, and junior Carli Dixon add even more depth to an already stacked back line.

"We are pretty much returning all of our back line, with the exception of Jackie Holtzman who graduated last year," says Lloyd. "We have a strong group coming back to that position that are seasoned veterans and are ready to go this year."

GOALKEEPERS

The biggest question mark for the team is the goalkeeper position, with four-year starter Michelle Conrad graduating and stepping into a graduate assistant role. Despite the loss, Lloyd is confident in the position in 2015.

"We have three very good keepers on the team, which provides good competition," Lloyd said.

Junior Alesha Seifert returns in 2015 after seeing valuable playing time in front of the net in 2013, recording a 5-0 record with two shutouts and a .49 goals against average.

"Alesha is probably the most experienced goalkeeper of the group," Lloyd said. She is very athletic; she has great hands and is a great tactician and student of the game."

Sophomores Ellen Anderson and Hope Knussman round out the position, and both, according to Lloyd, have had good preseasons and are contending for the starting position.

SCHEDULE

The Sea Gulls open their season at home on Tuesday, September 1 against Stockton University at 4 p.m., before hosting Washington and Lee University and Eastern Mennonite University in the Salisbury University Classic on September 5-6.

After taking on two of the top teams in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference in the home tournament, Salisbury will compete in a three-game away stretch against more fierce ODAC competition, including a game against defending national champion Lynchburg College.

The Gulls take on Catholic University of America and Stevenson University before opening conference play at home against Penn State University-Harrisburg on September 26 at 2 p.m.

"I'm excited for the season, and the players are pumped," Lloyd said. "We didn't quite get it done last season, but I think the team is poised to do so this year."

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