In each of the past two years under head coach Jim Berkman, Salisbury State's lacrosse team has made progress in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III tournament. Two years ago, the Sea Gulls made it to the quarterfinals. Last year, they advanced to the semifinals.
The Sea Gulls would like nothing better than to play in the 1991 championship game, but they aren't taking anything for granted.
Salisbury (13-0), ranked No. 1, will begin its quest for its first national championship today at 4 p.m. against No. 7 Ithaca (9-2) at Sea Gulls Stadium.
"I think we're focused, despite what has been in the papers the last two days," said Berkman, referring to Salisbury's not being top-seeded in its playoff bracket.
"We're looking at this game like it's our last game," he said. "We expect them to try and hold the ball, but they have some guys who can go to the goal. My biggest concern is that we don't get too impatient and get ourselves into a lot of man-down situations."
Ithaca, too, is on the rise under fourth-year coach Jeff Long, whose team struggled to a 14-27 record in his first three years.
But since losing two of their first three games this season, the Bombers have won eight straight. Ithaca, which has only two seniors, has wonthree games by one goal.
The Bombers are led in scoring by two freshmen, attackman Brian Ferry (27 goals, 26 assists) and midfielder Bill Krist (20, 8). Junior midfielder Terry Thompson has 20 goals and seven assists.
"This is a team that has a good chemistry," said Long, whose team won the Independent College Athletic Conference title this season. "Everybody has to contribute for us to win, yet we've gotten solid play from some of the young players. We're getting to the end of our two-year recruiting plan."
Despite the turnaround this season, Long says his team will have to play well to beat Salisbury.
The Sea Gulls have one of the best attack groups in Division I or Division III, and they love to run. Salisbury also has an advantage in postseason experience.
"I think our kids will be real excited, and that's expected," Long said. "Salisbury has an outstanding transition game, a fun style, and they play the way lacrosse should be played. You've got to honor their three attackmen, and, obviously, we've got to contain the fast break."
The Bombers' goalkeeping has not been strong. Keeper Dale Neely has won all eight games he has started this season but has a goals-against average of 10.1.
Salisbury is led in scoring by attackmen Rick Berkman (56, 37), Eric Ungleich (42, 47) and Rusty Pritzlaff (45, 26).