Gardus’ goal lifts Falcons over Eagles
With only a little more than a week of soccer left in the regular season, the goal is for teams to be playing their best as the postseason nears. And while Salisbury head coach Rick Babyak sees room for improvement, it’s hard for him to complain when his squad picks up another victory, remains near the top of the Colonial League standings, and has recently qualified for the district tournament.
The Lady Falcons (10-3 overall; 7-1 in Colonial League) got their ninth win of the season with a 1-0 victory over Nazareth (5-5-3 overall; 5-4-2 in Eastern Pennsylvania Conference) on Saturday night at Salisbury High School. That was the team’s third nonleague game before it closes out the Colonial League slate with four remaining matches and a nonleague battle against Pleasant Valley of the EPC.
It was Kelly Gardus playing the role of hero once again, reminiscent of her play against rival Northwestern a couple of weeks ago.
“The first half against Northwestern, we were probably a little behind,” Babyak said. “They were the better team, but we turned it around in the second half. We really started finding our legs. Kelly Gardus in that game made some magic, and she did it again here today.”
With neither team able to find the back of the net through the first 40 minutes, Gardus took it upon herself to change that in the second half. The Falcon senior forward first lofted a shot on goal five minutes into play that was on target, but a leaping save from Nazareth goalie Caitlyn Lazzarini kept the game scoreless.
Gardus, however, made sure that wouldn’t happen when she got her chance again with 10 minutes to play. A through ball found Gardus threatening in front of Nazareth’s goal, and after eluding one defender, she placed a perfect shot into the left side of the net.
“They played a ball up and I settled it,” Gardus said. “I got around the first defender and then I saw it was just a defender between me and the goal. So, I kind of spun a little touch around her and I got past her to put it in the left side of the net.
“That goalie made a lot of great saves. So that’s good for her, but it was just good to come out with a win.”
Nazareth wouldn’t roll over quietly. The Blue Eagles, which generated eight shots on goal in the second half alone, nearly tied the game in the final minute with a rip on Salisbury’s goal. But a leaping Sarah McGee got a hand on the ball for her eighth save, this one to avoid a possible overtime.
“Our defense is doing really well,” Gardus said. “They are getting the ball out of there. Sarah is doing amazing in goal, it being her first year.”
“That was a great save; that was going to be in the goal,” Babyak said. “She just parried it over the goal. And their keeper made two great saves, too.”
Salisbury dominated possession and on-goal opportunities in the first half, in large part due to the speed of Rylee Donaldson breaking away from Nazareth’s back line. But the Lady Falcons couldn’t get on the scoreboard, nor could they take advantage of the Blue Eagles loading up the back of the field trying to contain Donaldson.
The Lady Falcons were finally able to take advantage of that in the second half with Gardus’s 17th goal of the season.
“Particularly early in the game, they had five girls dropped back just to handle Donaldson,” Babyak said. “I have to give credit to Erica Holben. She gets beat up, literally, in the center mid. She is winning balls and working for balls. She is sacrificing a little bit for us right now because she really is a good forward and she should be up there scoring goals for us, but certain games we have to put her back just because she helps control the game.”
Results from Monday’s game against Saucon Valley were not available at time of press. The Lady Falcons travel to Bangor on Thursday for a 4 p.m. game, and then travel to Pleasant Valley on Saturday afternoon.