Who says that first-year teams must struggle? The women's soccer team at Salisbury State is in its first season of intercollegiate varsity play, and already the Sea Gulls are making veteran-like noise.
Led by coach Jim Berkman, who last spring guided the Sea Gulls men's lacrosse team to its first NCAA Division III title, Salisbury State has won five of its past six games to improve to 6-2. Further- more, in only the program's second month of existence, the Sea Gulls have cracked the Intercollegiate Soccer Association of America South Region rankings for the first time, weighing in at No. 10.
Salisbury State's only loss during its 5-1 streak was 2-0 to Mary Washington, which is ranked second in the South Region. The Sea Gulls will get a closer read on their progress over the next week. After playing at Johns Hopkins today, they will face two teams above them in the ISAA poll next week -- Randolph-Macon (No. 6) and Virginia Wesleyan (No. 7).
More Sea Gulls noise
The most persistent knock against field hockey has to do with scoring, or a lack thereof. Through the first half of its season, Salisbury State has laid that complaint to rest.
After 10 games, the Sea Gulls are 7-3. Part of Salisbury State's success can be explained by its solid defense, which has allowed only nine goals. But the bottom line is the Sea Gulls have overwhelmed their opponents and entertained their fans by scoring 35 goals, for a hefty average of 3.5 goals per game.
Sophomore forward Susan Fatz (13 goals, four assists) and junior forward Kim Bloodsworth (seven goals, one assist) have carried the offense.
If the Sea Gulls continue on this course, they should return to the NCAA playoffs, which they missed last fall after suffering through their first losing season in 10 years. They are currently in a three-way tie for second place in the Capital Athletic Conference, and trail league-leading Goucher by a game. Those two will tangle on Tuesday at Goucher.
Speaking of Goucher, the Gophers women's sports teams are enjoying a good fall season. The field hockey, soccer and volleyball teams have a combined record of 37-8-1.
The field hockey team is 10-1, and is coming off a 1-0 victory over Johns Hopkins, the eighth shutout of the season for sophomore goalkeeper Dawn Greer. She is averaging seven saves and has permitted only five goals. Junior back Chrissy Czajkowski (14 goals) and junior forward Michelle Mohlman (15 goals, five assists) have led the attack.
Freshman forward Sarah Weaver (Towson) has scored nine goals and added four assists to lead the soccer team to a 9-1-1 start.
A team-leading 163 kills by senior outside hitter Josie Boddy (Arundel), along with 153 from junior outside hitter Karen Levi, have helped the Gophers' volleyball team roll to an 18-6 record.
Loyola gets on track
Loyola's men's soccer may have stumbled briefly at the season's outset, but the Greyhounds' troubles appear to be behind them. Sparked by the outstanding play of senior goalkeeper Zach Thornton, Loyola beat Clemson, 1-0, to finish a strong second in the last weekend's Clemson Tournament.
Thornton's fifth consecutive shutout helped Loyola (8-1-2) move to No. 24 in the ISAA coaches poll. Thornton has moved into ninth place nationally with a 0.62 goals-against average.
UMBC women rolling
The UMBC volleyball team, showing no signs of faltering despite the loss of two-time Big South Player of the Year Kelly O'Brien to graduation, is 11-2 behind senior setter Judy Jackson. She is averaging 10.4 assists, and averaged 11.8 in the Retrievers' first two Big South victories.
Offensively, senior Jenn Erlandson (Severna Park) and sophomore Dana Eberly have been equally impressive. Erlandson leads the team with 110 kills and a .360 kill percentage. Eberly is right behind her with 109 kills and a .331 percentage.
Sophomore goalkeeper Nadine Henchcliffe (five shutouts, seven goals allowed), the reigning Big South Player of the Week after recording back-to-back shutouts against Charleston Southern and Loyola, has sparked UMBC's soccer team to a 7-2 start, the best in school history.
The Retrievers have won six of their past seven games. Junior forward Denise Schilte leads the team with five goals and seven assists.