The NCAA Division III lacrosse tournament that starts Wednesday is historic in several respects.
For once, Hobart, is not the favorite. Winner of 11 straight Division III championships, Hobart has a 5-6 record and is ranked No. 5 in the current poll.
Washington College is not even in the eight-team field. The Shoremen finished 3-7 and failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.
And now, look who's the favorite. Salisbury State, with its 13-0 record and No. 1 ranking in the poll the last four weeks, will entertain No. 7 Ithaca (9-2) Wednesday in one of four first-round games.
But there its most-favored status could end. For despite its No. 1 ranking, Salisbury State might have to go on the road to play the winner of No. 6 Washington & Lee (11-3) vs. No. 2 Ohio Wesleyan (12-3) in the semifinals.
Dave Urick, selection committee chairman and coach at Division I Georgetown, told The Sun that "assuming that both teams [Salisbury and Ohio Wesleyan] advance, the next game would probably be at Ohio Wesleyan. The committee felt that Ohio Wesleyan played a stronger schedule. There are other factors that come into play such as availability of the stadium, compatibility of sites, locker rooms, crowd control, the field itself, seeding and revenue."
Salisbury athletic director William Lide told The Sun he would state his school's case in a letter to the NCAA championship committee.
In the other first-round games Wednesday, No. 4 Nazareth (11-1) is at No. 3 Gettysburg (12-1) and No. 9 Clarkson (10-3) is at No. 5 Hobart (5-6). Those winners also will meet Sunday.
Salisbury advanced to the semifinals of last year's tournament only to be eliminated by eventual champion Hobart. The Sea Gulls completed their first undefeated regular season with a 20-4 victory over Washington College April 27.
"It's a great advantage to be playing on our home field," Salisbury junior midfielder Jeff Chenowith said before the change was announced. "With the crowd and the atmosphere, we know we'll always play well."
The Sea Gulls are led by Rick Berkman, who has 56 goals and is only three shy of the school single-season record held by Dave Cottle, now Loyola College's coach. Another attackman, Eric Ungleich, has 47 assists, within striking distance of Tim Berquist's 1987 record of 52.
The teams in the field are well aware that perennial champion Hobart's record is deceiving.
The Statesmen were 1-5 against Division I teams but 4-1 against Division III teams. The 18-17 loss to Ohio Wesleyan was Hobart's first to a Division III rival in three years.