SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 1 seeded Salisbury University men's soccer team takes on No. 6 seeded St. Mary's College of Maryland in the Capital Athletic Conference championship game at the SU Soccer Complex at 2 p.m., on Saturday, November 7. The winner of the game will receive an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III men's soccer tournament.
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How we got here
Salisbury enters the CAC champion game after going without a loss since late September, going undefeated in league play. In the semifinal round of the tournament, Salisbury took down No. 4 seeded University of Mary Washington, 2-0. The Gulls got the scoring going just five minutes in as Brooks Zentgraf headed in a corner kick from Matt Greene. Then, three minutes into the second half, Leslie Umunna fired home a shot off a pass from Brad Martinelli. The goals for Zentgraf and Umunna were good for their sixth goals on the season and the fourth time both of them have scored in the same game, with Salisbury going 4-0 in those contests.
How they got here
After being the last team to qualify for the six-team tournament, St. Mary's has proven it belongs, beating No. 3 seeded Wesley College (3-2) and No. 2 seeded York College of Pennsylvania, 1-0, in overtime. In the overtime victory at York, keeper Zack Haussler came away with an eight-save shutout for the Seahawks. Zach Fontenot scored the game winner on a 20-yard chip shot in transition on the team's only shot on goal of the match.
Scouting the Seahawks
The Seahawks come to Salisbury with arguably the most potent offense in the CAC, scoring 2.5 goals per game. In the categories of goals, assists, and points, St. Mary's has two players in the top five in the CAC rankings. Nick Tait leads the way as he is first in the CAC in goals (15), assists (11), and points (41). No one in the CAC is within 16 points of the junior midfielder. Fontenot, after his late-game heroics, has 21 points for the season on nine goals and three assists.
In the defensive end, the Seahawks are allowing 1.52 goals against per contest. Haussler has started 15 games this season and has compiled a .798 save percentage to go with an 1.26 goals-against average and four shutouts. In the Seahawks' game against Mary Washington earlier in the year, Haussler had a 15-save performance to notch the tie.
The last time we met
The matchup on Saturday will mark one month since these teams last met in St. Mary's City, Maryland. Salisbury opened up the scoring exactly one minute into the game as Cy McNeill took a free kick from just inside half that Zentgraf got a head on for the goal. The Seahawks tied the match in 74th minute, but Salisbury would have a quick response. Fifty second later, Umunna got in on the keeper and chipped it over his head to put the Gulls up 2-1. Salisbury would hold on for the CAC road victory.
Salisbury looks to win its first CAC championship since the 2008-09 season when it took down Wesley, 3-0. Salisbury has won the CAC regular-season title five straight seasons. Here for the last five seasons has been Greene, a senior forward, who gained a year of eligibility following an injury last season. The only other Salisbury men's soccer player to win five regular season titles is Nate Woods '13.
With an assist in the semifinal game, Greene now sits one point away from cracking the top 10 in career points for the Gulls. That assist was the 20th of his career, good for sixth all time.
Senior keeper Drew Staedeli sits five saves away from entering the top five for all-time career saves at Salisbury. Sitting at 216, Staedeli has made 91 saves this season, which is 30 saves more than any previous year for the Ellicott City, Maryland native.
A rich past
The Gulls and Seahawks have faced off 34 times over the years with Salisbury holding a 26-5-3 edge. Salisbury has gotten the better of St. Mary's recently as a win on Saturday would be the ninth consecutive win. The last time St. Mary's topped Salisbury was in 2007 when the Seahawks won 2-1 in overtime. The lone goal scorer for Salisbury was current assistant coach Alex Hargrove '09. Also playing in that game was current St. Mary's assistant, Kevin Seeger who was amidst his CAC Rookie of the Year season.
The winner of the game earns the automatic bid in the the NCAA tournament, which begins next week. The NCAA selection show will announce the teams making the tournament field on Monday, November 9.