DELAWARE, Ohio -- Geoff Sanders of the Salisbury State lacrosse team may have made the biggest decision of yesterday's 18-12 win over Ohio Wesleyan in the semifinals of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III tournament.
And Sanders wasn't even playing.
Starting goalie Scott Bentkowski usually plays the first half and gives way to Sanders. But Sanders, along with a few Salisbury coaches, decided to play Bentkowski the entire way.
And he didn't disappoint them, recording 27 saves.
The win raised Salisbury's record to 15-0, setting a single-season school record for victories, and sends it home for the national championship game Saturday against the winner of today's Nazareth-at-Hobart game. Ohio Wesleyan finished 13-4.
"We've been best friends all year," Bentkowski said of his relationship with Sanders. "Geoff said: 'Hey, you're hot. Go for it.' If he were hot like I was, I'd tell him to go ahead, too."
Salisbury State coach Jim Berkman said: "He's played good games all year long. But today, he played a great game. We decided at halftime that he was so hot we had to stay with him. If he let a couple get by in the second half, then we would have brought Geoff in."
The Sea Gulls broke the game open with four straight second-quarter goals and a 9-4 lead, after Ohio Wesleyan had taken its only lead, 2-1, then had forged a tie at 3 and drawn within 5-4.
Then came a typical big third quarter (5-1) for the Sea Gulls, who had outscored opponents, 80-23, in that segment before this game. Scoring the next four goals, Salisbury State led by 13-6 at the 4-minute, 54-second mark of the third quarter. Its hot streak lasted into the fourth quarter, as the Sea Gulls built a 16-7 lead with 10:56 left.
"We've been a great third-quarter team," Berkman said. "That didn't change tonight. We really kept the pace up and put pressure on them."
Bentkowski's play and the Sea Gulls' national final berth overshadowed the breaking of the school's single-season scoring record by senior Rick Berkman.
"A victory is the most important thing," said the record-holder, who scored his 60th goal at 3:41 of the fourth quarter. "At this point of the season, records mean nothing."
The previous record of 59 was held by Dave Cottle, now head coach at Loyola College.
Salisbury State 5 4 5 4 -- 18
Ohio Wesleyan 3 3 1 5 -- 12
Goals: SS--Berkman 4, Pritzlaf 4, Ungleich 3, Boyle 2, Case 2, Chenowith 2, Morley; OW--Franz 3, Bishop 3, Arfin 2, Denison 2, Mott, Crowther. Assists: SS--Berkman 3, Pritzlaf 2, Russell, Ungleich, Case, Webb, Morley; OW--Franz 4, Bishop 3, Denison, Sullivan. Saves: SS--Bentkowski 27; OW--Flynn 16. Shots: SS 43; OW 78.