Salisbury State coach Jim Berkman appreciates more than most what Hobart has accomplished in Division III lacrosse.
In 1979, Berkman was a freshman attackman at St. Lawrence University, which beat Hobart in the first round of the last combined NCAA tournament for Division II and III teams. Division III got its own show the following year, and Hobart has hogged the spotlight since, taking a 35-game win streak in the NCAA playoffs and 11 straight titles into tomorrow's championship game at Salisbury State.
Tickets are $4 for the 1:30 p.m. game at Sea Gull Stadium.
It is Salisbury State's first visit to the NCAA final. The Sea Gulls reached last year's semifinals, but were routed by Hobart, 23-5. The Statesmen from Geneva, N.Y., want to continue their spring ritual of keeping on the heels of the men's swimming program at Kenyon, which began its string of 12 straight Division III titles in March 1980.
"I played in that game, but I didn't get any points," said Berkman, referring to the 1979 Hobart loss that has become a trivia item. "Our players are just as aware of Hobart's streak as the coaches are. Some of our guys have been hearing about Hobart ever since they were 10 or 11."
Berkman and Hobart coach B.J. O'Hara agree that the Statesmen traditionally have had too many resources for the rest of Division III. O'Hara has four assistant coaches, and his team's 7-6 record raises eyebrows until you see that it has played at Virginia, Syracuse and Penn State, and had additional losses at home to Cornell and Michigan State.
"In terms of staff [four assistant coaches and two more for the J.V.] and travel, we're Division I in every sense of the word," O'Hara said. "The only thing we don't have that they have in Division I is the financial aid.
"We've given a lot of thought to moving up to Division I, but the Division III schools that are already there [like Johns Hopkins] have been grandfathered in by the NCAA. If we wanted to move up now, we would have to continue to adhere to the Division III financial aid limitations, and that wouldn't work."
When asked if the rest of Division III would like to see Hobart move on, O'Hara said, "No, especially this year. People realize we're mortal."
Hobart's only 1990 loss was to Syracuse, but this year was a struggle.
Three players suffered season-ending injuries, and the Statesmen will have seven first-year starters on the field tomorrow. Hobart's only Division III loss came in its fourth game, by an 18-17 count at Ohio Wesleyan, the team that Salisbury State led 16-7 en route to an 18-12 win in last Sunday's semifinals.
"Some people have turned their nose up at Salisbury State in terms of their schedule, but since their opener they've easily passed every test," O'Hara said. "Ohio Wesleyan is a very good team, but the assistant coach we had there Sunday said Salisbury State was superior. They're for real."
The Sea Gulls can run with the Statesmen this year because of an improved transition game triggered by junior college transfers Art Morley, Jeff Chenowith and Chris Boyle. As a result, attackman Rick Berkman has a school-record 60 goals, Eric Ungleich is two assists away from another school record, and Rusty Pritzlaff has 12 playoff points. All three are seniors.
Hobart has received 45 goals and 28 assists from Bill Miller, Tim DeLoe has 35 goals, and Jeff Tambroni has 21 and 20. The Statesmen have had trouble with faceoffs, winning 48.3 percent.
NCAA DIVISION III FINALS
1980 -- Hobart 11, Cortland 8
1981 -- Hobart 10, Cortland 8
1982 -- Hobart 9, Washington 8 (OT)
1983 -- Hobart 13, Roanoke 9
1984 -- Hobart 12, Washington 5
1985 -- Hobart 15, Washington 8
1986 -- Hobart 13, Washington 10
1987 -- Hobart 9, Ohio Wesleyan 5
1988 -- Hobart 18, Ohio Wesleyan 9
1989 -- Hobart 11, Ohio Wesleyan 8
1990 -- Hobart 18, Washington 6