There was nothing head coach Sharon Pfluger could do but stand there and watch as the final seconds ticked off the clock in a 3-0 home loss to No. 1-ranked Salisbury University on Sunday.
The loss had Pfluger wondering exactly what happened to her team just a few days after the No. 6-ranked Lions extended their winning streak to eight games with a win over Neumann University.
“You come out against another really strong team and you need to do your best,” Pfluger said. “I think we had tremendous possession time, but we didn’t take advantage of our opportunities. I think we were very hesitant and I don’t know why really, but that’s my job to figure that out.”
The Lions (10-2) certainly had their opportunities, but with each one came another breakdown, Pfluger said.
“It was standing up in the middle of a hit, thinking about shooting before we even got the ball, the ball being on the line or not getting our hips around enough,” Pfluger said. “You can’t blow those opportunities. You’re going to make mistakes, but you can’t blow fundamental opportunities in front of the cage like we did.”
While the Lions were wasting their opportunities, the Sea Gulls (12-0) were taking full advantage of theirs. A clear example of that was Salisbury senior midfielder Courtney Webster, who put two of her four shots past senior goalkeeper Shannon Syciarz during the contest. Webster scored at 9:30 into the game to give the Sea Gulls a 1-0 lead and later tacked on another goal early in the second half.
Pfluger took nothing away from the Sea Gulls’ attack, but stressed that she believes her team could have produced a better performance.
“I thought (Salisbury) was very good, but I think we played poorly,” Pfluger said. “I was not happy with our midfield at all today.”
Junior defender Camille Passucci accepted the criticism, citing a decreased amount of correspondence between the players as a reason for the Lions’ inefficiency.
“I think our level of communication was not where it should have been,” Passucci said. “When things get tough, talking through it definitely makes a difference, and not having that affected our game.”
Everything that wasn’t there for the Lions against the Sea Gulls was present earlier in the week when the Lions defeated Neumann University (2-10) by a score of 4-0.
“The organization (against Neumann) was very crisp the whole game and I was very happy with our performance,” Pfluger said.
Junior forward Caitlyn Jenkins continued to provide the Lions with an offensive spark as she scored just 35 seconds into the game.
Her fellow classmate, junior defender Christy Wham, was involved in the rest of the Lions’ scores as she put two shots into the back of the cage and assisted a goal scored by Passucci.
“I think Jenkins and Wham have been so productive because they are so calm in front of the cage,” Passucci said. “They know what they have to do and they do the simple things right in order to get it in the back of the cage.”
Pfluger has been pleased to see the pair of juniors incorporate themselves into an offense that has had to adjust to the absence of senior midfielder/forward Leigh Mitchell and junior midfielder/forward Kathleen Notos.
“I feel like they’re hanging onto the information better than they did in the past,” Pfluger said. “They’re juniors and they’ve both had a lot of playing time, and this is where they should be really showing everything that they’ve learned, and I guess for me, it’s putting it all together.”
With the loss to Salisbury behind them, the Lions are looking forward to retreating to the basics and getting their season back on track as they head to No. 9-ranked Montclair State University on Oct. 15, according to Pfluger.
“(Against Salisbury) we lost our discipline, so we need to get back to our discipline, get back to keeping it really simple and read the play better,” she said. “We’re a determined group and a very hard-working group, so I think the combination of those two things will give us the best opportunity to bounce back and return to form.”