Girl soccer preps for playoffs
The last time the Salisbury girls’ soccer team qualified for the Colonial League playoffs was back in 2016 as the fourth and final seed.
Since then, the Colonial League expanded its playoff format to six teams beginning this fall. The Lady Falcons (12-4 overall; 9-2 in Colonial League) will be returning to that stage in 2019, and they wouldn’t have even needed the expanded tournament to do so.
Despite last week’s 2-1 loss to Moravian Academy, the Lady Falcons have positioned themselves among the top teams in the Colonial League. With just one conference game remaining, Salisbury was third in the standings and could not drop below No. 4.
“It wasn’t our best game effort,” head coach Rick Babyak said of the Moravian Academy setback. “We didn’t play particularly well, but we still were in the game the whole time. We probably didn’t make the adjustments we needed to make for the style of play they were playing.
“There’s a pretty high percentage chance that we can see them again in the playoffs. I think we need to make some adjustments based on what we saw. We can definitely play them better than what we did.”
Other than that loss to the Lions last Thursday, Salisbury’s only other conference loss came against Northwestern, 2-1, in its first Colonial League game this season. Northwestern is the No. 1 seed in the District 11 Class 2A standings with only two losses.
“On any given day, if we play our game, we can compete with anybody in this league,” Babyak said. “There’s no question about it. We had some injuries throughout the middle of the season that we had to work through, but we got some girls back and I feel good about where we are right now.”
Quinn Wittman leads the Lady Falcons in scoring with 17 goals and 10 assists, and Aaliyah M’Bai is third on the team with eight goals. Both players are just sophomores and have impressed Babyak throughout the regular season, but he knows the intensity will pick up come the postseason.
That’s where senior Olivia Hoeing figures to play a big role in leading this young group. Despite playing a majority of the time on defense this season, she ranks second on the team in scoring and first in assists with 12.
“Even though we had that small blip, I think we’re in a good spot,” Babyak said. “I think the girls have everything within themselves to turn this around and have a good playoff run.”
Salisbury also qualified for the district tournament for the ninth consecutive season. The Lady Falcons have seen those runs come to an end against Palisades in the semifinal round in each of the past two seasons.
But for now, Salisbury is focused on its rivalry against Southern Lehigh on Tuesday and Wednesday’s nonleague game against Dieruff to end the regular season. Results from the Southern Lehigh game were not available at time of press.
“We’ve had a really nice season,” Babyak said. “Even with a game like Moravian, even with a loss, we were right there. I like our chances. I like where we are. Just the fact that we’ve put ourselves in the position to be in both the league and district playoffs early like this is a really nice thing they’ve done.”