By JONATHAN SPEE
The University of Mary Washington men’s soccer team upset conference rival and nationally ranked Salisbury University 2-1 last Saturday.
On a beautiful 68-degree day, the 2-3 Eagles looked to bounce back from a tough loss to Catholic University, as the No. 20 Sea Gulls came down to Fredericksburg to battle UMW.
The crowd was rowdy and enthusiastic; the Mary Washington contingent cheered strongly to try to give the Eagles a home field advantage in the crucial matchup.
The first half was scoreless and Salisbury looked to be the stronger team as they dominated possession and shot count (11-6) in the early going. UMW sophomore goalkeeper Blake Weiss was crucial to keeping the Sea Gulls off the scoreboard to nullify Salisbury’s possession advantage, as he recorded seven first half saves, and 11 for the game.
However, only one minute into the second half, junior defender Matt Poole scored a brilliant goal from 25 yards out on an assist from sophomore Nick Shepherd to give the Eagles the lead over the visiting Sea Gulls. The goal was Poole’s first of the season, and the first of his collegiate career.
“It was a great ball from Shepherd and I knew I needed to capitalize,” Poole said. “As soon as the ball left my foot I knew it was a goal and it felt unreal. There are so few opportunities to score as a defender that when one of them comes along it is so important to make it count. It was a turning point to the game and came at a time when Salisbury appeared to have the momentum.”
Poole’s goal swung the momentum in Mary Washington’s favor, and less than eight minutes later junior midfielder Omar Ismail scored off another Shepherd assist to put the Eagles up 2-0.
The game remained scoreless for another 30 minutes of action while UMW held onto their comfortable two-goal lead. However, Salisbury made things interesting in the 84th minute when they finally capitalized on one of their chances when Trevor Sharpe connected with a header.
Though the goal got Salisbury on the scoreboard, it turned out to be too little, too late, since the Eagles were able to hold off the pressing Sea Gulls for the win. The victory improved UMW to 3-3 on the season, and 1-0 in conference play.
“We may not have had as many shots as Salisbury, but we made our opportunities count and came away with a much needed win,” Ismail said. “We have a good feeling about this season and look forward to playing Gettysburg on Wednesday.”
Mary Washington battled Gettysburg last night, but the game ended too late for results to be included in this issue. The Eagles return home this Saturday when they will play conference rival Stevenson University at 2 p.m. UMW will then travel to North Carolina next Wednesday, when new Eagles’ Head Coach Jason Kilby will have a homecoming of sorts as he faces a North Carolina Wesleyan team that he spent the previous nine years coaching.