SALISBURY -- The Hobart Statesmen fooled a lot of people, but never themselves.
Despite their worst record in more than a decade, the Statesmen remained the best in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III lacrosse, winning their 12th consecutive title yesterday with a 12-11 win over Salisbury State before 3,417 at Sea Gulls Stadium.
Hobart (8-6) scored four unanswered goals in the first nin minutes of the third period to take a four-goal lead and hold off a late Salisbury rally in the final period.
But despite losing, Salisbury (15-1) learned that it is not far from dethroning the Statesman.
Hobart had too much team speed and playoff experience for Salisbury, which was making its first appearance in the championship game of the 12-year-old tournament.
The Statesmen also had a fierce ride that slowed Salisbury's transition game, controlled faceoffs and took advantage of their schedule, which included six Division I opponents, five of which were losses.
Junior attackman Tim deLoe led Hobart with three goals, whil fellow attackmen Bill Miller, Jeff Tambroni, Dave Pogoada and Chris Gallup each added two.
"Because of the losses, a lot of people were writing us off -- eve the home fans in Geneva [N.Y.]," said Tambroni. "It's been a stressful year, one filled with a lot of ups and downs. But the coach kept telling us those Division I games would get us over the hump in the tournament. We just needed some confidence and we have improved a lot during the season."
Salisbury defender Mike Esham said: "They have been in tight games before. You could see their experience paying off for them, and giving them the edge. The intensity in this game from start to finish was unbelieveable, much different from a playoff game. But we stayed in there and never quit. We have nothing to be ashamed off."
Salisbury refused to quit. Four times during the game Hobart le by three goals, and one time by four, and each time Salisbury came back within a goal.
The last comeback attempt came after Gallup scored with 3:00 left in the game to give Hobart a 12-9 lead.
But Salisbury midfielder Kent Case scored 11 seconds later, an Sea Gulls attackman Eric Ungleich scored with on an underhand shot with 1:14 left to cut the lead to 12-11. But Ungleich's and Salisbury's final shot was stopped by Hobart goalie James Gracey (20 total saves) with 17 seconds left in the game.
Hobart's speed, especially after the Statesmen shot, allowe them to cut off Salisbury's passing lanes on the transition, especially at midfield. The stalled ball at midfield took Salisbury's attack almost out of the game.
Ungleich (47 goals) and fellow attackmen Rick Berkman (60) an Rusty Pritzlaff (52) entered the game as Salisbury's three leading scorers. After yesterday, Ungleich had two goals while Pritzlaff and Berkman each had one.
Hobart's speed advantage was never more evident than at the beginning of the second period when deLoe was given a three-minute penalty for an illegal stick. Hobart won the faceoff, and ran out most of the penalty. Salisbury never got off a shot.
"At times on the break, we would have a player out front, only to have one of their midfielders run him down," said Jim Berkman.
"On the penalty, we would try to double team, but they would outrun us," said Esham. "Their five outran our six."
And then there was Hobart's ride. Salisbury failed to clear the ball 13 out of 34 times. Hobart also controlled 17 of 27 faceoffs. During the Statesmen's rally in the third period, they held the ball at one time for nearly five minutes.
"You can't score if you don't have the ball," said Jim Berkman.
Salisbury opened the game scoring the first two goals and i seemed the Sea Gulls had found a weakness in Gracey, a freshman. But Hobart answered with three goals in the final 6:10 of the first quarter for a 3-2 first-period lead. Hobart held a two-goal lead for most of the second period until Pritzlaff and Hohner scored extra-man goals in the final 6:53 of the second period to tie the score at 4-4 at the half.
But Hobart dominated most of the third period. deLoe scored 1:13 into the period. Gallup scored on a 35-foot, underhand shot with 10:35 left in the period. Miller then scored twice, once off a rebound of a shot, to give Hobart an 8-4 lead with 5:44 left in the period.
"I think the guys relaxed, and that helped them take control of the game in the third period," said Hobart coach B.J. O'Hara.
"We've had some gut wrenching experiences this season," sai O'Hara. "Just getting to the tournament was sweet and the guys knew we had to play on the road. They knew that they were going to have to work for the championship, especially against a tough team like Salisbury."