SALISBURY -- An inexperienced Ithaca College lacrosse team used a deliberate offense to stay within two goals of Salisbury State at the half yesterday, and the Bombers probably started thinking upset.
Salisbury State midfielder Art Morley, though, said he knew a spurt was coming.
"We've seen that style all year where teams try to take the air out of the ball," said Morley. "I wasn't concerned. Usually, when other teams do that to us, we come back and push it in their face."
No. 1-ranked Salisbury's big push came in the third period, when the Sea Gulls scored six consecutive goals to open up a tight game and defeat No. 7 Ithaca, 16-10, before a crowd of 1,200 at Sea Gulls Stadium in a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III quarterfinal.
Salisbury (14-0), which yesterday tied a school record for wins in a season (previously accomplished in 1981 and 1984), will play No. 2 Ohio Wesleyan (13-3) Sunday in the semifinals. The game time will be determined this morning. Ohio Wesleyan defeated No. 6 Washington & Lee, 19-10, yesterday in another quarterfinal.
The Sea Gulls struggled in the first half yesterday, leading, 7-5. Ithaca (9-3) had devised a solid game plan for the first two periods. Besides the slowdown offense, the Bombers were quick to drop back on defense, stopping Salisbury's transition offense. Not once did the Sea Gulls score on a fast break in the first half.
But Salisbury coach Jim Berkman made some adjustments at halftime.
"I told them to stop sliding so quickly on defense at the crease and told them to start hustling more for the ground balls to get the fast break going," said Berkman.
Salisbury did. Senior midfielder Regi Scales picked up a loose ball at midfield and passed to attackman Eric Ungleich on the left wing. Ungleich threw a cross-crease pass to Rusty Pritzlaff, who converted it into a goal 1 minutes, 36 seconds into the third period.
Sea Gulls midfielder Kevin Hohner then scored on a settled situation with 10:33 left in the quarter, and, nearly two minutes later, midfielder Kent Case fed midfielder Dan Gourley off the transition for another goal and a 10-5 Salisbury lead.
Three more goals, one each by midfielders David Webb, Chris Boyle and Ungleich, gave Salisbury a 13-5 lead with 3:04 left in the quarter.
That was about the end of the game.
"We showed our inexperience early in the game, and I was proud of the way our team came back at the half," said Ithaca coach Jeff Long. "But I knew we couldn't do it twice against a team with the composure of Salisbury."
Salisbury, though, wasn't so composed in the second period. After taking a 4-1, first-period lead, premature slides on defense around the crease cost the Sea Gulls four second-period goals, two by junior midfielder Dave Darcangelo.
"We were just too anxious to make things happen," said Berkman.
Why? Berkman would not say it was because his team did not get home-field advantage through the playoffs.
But the players said that factor was on their minds.
"We were all disappointed," said Morley, a junior from Fallston High, "and we wanted to show the whole world what Salisbury State lacrosse was all about."
NOTES: Salisbury AD William Lide said yesterday that the school still could be host to the championship game if the Sea Gulls advance that far. Lide said he will continue lobbying for the event as long as his team is in contention.
Division III lacrosse tourney
Salisbury State 16, Ithaca 10
Hobart 19, Clarkson 11
Ohio Wesleyan 19, Wash. & Lee 10
Nazareth 17, Gettysburg 10
Nazareth at Hobart, 2 p.m.
Salisbury St. at Ohio Wes., TBA