Girls soccer wins at NW
The last time that Salisbury went to Northwestern and returned with a win in girls soccer, most of the current players were barely walking. Some of them may not have even been born.
That’s how long Rich Babyak believes it’s been that his team has struggled to win in New Tripoli.
“I have to double check the statistics, but they’re telling me it’s been 15 years since we’ve won on this field, and that could be,” said Babyak. “We don’t often beat Northwestern at all, let alone on this field, so it’s a good win and we needed it too.
“We had a couple of close games that didn’t go our way this year and this gives us the confidence to know that we’re still there and we’re still in it.”
Salisbury needed some heroics to get the win and Kelly Gardus came through with just the right touch and at the right time. Gardus’ goal with 1:53 left to play snapped a 1-1 tie and gave Salisbury a 2-1 lead, leaving Northwestern little time to strike back.
“The goalie called the defender off and I anticipated it happening, so I just snuck in and touched it around her,” said Gardus of the game-winner.
With Salisbury down 1-0 thanks to a Kayla Bardonner goal for Northwestern in the first half, both teams pounded on each other in a physical contest for the rest of the half without either side being able to find the net.
Northwestern controlled the ball for much of the game, but was unable to capitalize when it got good looks at the net. Salisbury (5-1-0, 7-3-0) also seemed to lose ball control at the most inopportune times, just as it seemed to be putting something together offensively.
In the second half, Salisbury came out with crisper passing and was able to get better shots on goal.
Midway through the second half, Olivia Hoeing took a corner kick from Rylee Donaldson and blew it past Tiger keeper McKenna Amey to tie the game.
With overtime looming, Salisbury got an opening down the middle of the field and Kelly Gardus reacted well when Amey came out to challenge the play and worked around her to score what would be the winning goal.
Babyak credited Gardus for anticipating the goalie’s move and finding the opening.
“It’s little things like that,” said Babyak. “They start reading things like that and it makes a big difference in the game, are you standing or are you moving as something happens? A lot of good forwards in their mind are saying ‘the potential is, this ball might go this way,’ and they start moving and it makes all the difference in the world.
“That’s good when they start to catch that.”
While Northwestern may have handled Salisbury for much of the game, senior goalkeeper Sarah McGee was up to the task making 14 saves.
“It was a very physical game and they’re big strong girls,” said Babyak. “They’re better on the grass than we are. We’re a turf team and they handle this grass much better than we do. But we stood up to it and we took a lot of pressure. We didn’t fold.”
Gardus admitted that it was a physical game and that Northwestern made things extremely tough on the Falcons, but she also believes that her team was able to adapt and find ways to work around the Northwestern defense while also keeping the Tigers from getting too many good looks for shots.
“It was a great game and they possess well,” she said. “But we started to figure it out and it worked in our favor at the end.”