Gulls look to bury playoff past

May 14, 1994|By Joe Weber | Joe Weber,Special to The Sun

SALISBURY -- Since lacrosse coach Jim Berkman arrived at Salisbury State in 1989, the Sea Gulls have gone 75-13. For the third time in four years, they have finished the regular season as the top-ranked team in Division III. They are making their sixth straight trip to the NCAA tournament, playing host to Washington College today.

But the Sea Gulls have never won the national title, and there is a sense of urgency this season. Next year, Hobart -- winner of 20 consecutive Division III titles -- will step up to Division I. Any championship won after this season may include the footnote A.H. -- After Hobart.

Last year, Salisbury was undefeated going into the tournament and lost to Washington College in the quarterfinals. In 1992, the Sea Gulls were bumped out in the first round by Ithaca. They are 3-5 in the postseason under Berkman, and they are 0-4 against Washington in the playoffs.

"We're approaching this as 1994; we're not talking about last year," Berkman said. "This is a new team, a new year. We consider [Washington] as any other team, and we're going to give it our best shot.

"Right now we're playing real well," Berkman said. "The problem is we haven't played in a while, two or three weeks . . . . We're just starting to reach our peak."

The Sea Gulls' 13-0 record includes victories over No. 4 Nazareth, No. 6 Washington (13-8), No. 9 Roanoke and No. 10 Ohio Wesleyan.

Sophomore attackman Jason Coffman, a first team All-American last year, has scored 56 goals this season.

"Jason always comes up big," Berkman said. "He's strong, a great finisher, and in traffic he's the best I've seen."

The 5-foot-7, 195-pound sophomore has 107 career goals. He has a good chance of breaking the school record of 179 career goals held by Loyola coach Dave Cottle (1974-77).

Joining Coffman on attack this year is Sean Radebaugh (36 goals, 36 assists), who played at Essex Community College and Loyola High.

"Sean has excellent change of direction and a dramatically different style than Jason," Berkman said. "I think you need that on a team. They haven't really clicked yet, but they're getting a lot better at giving up the ball. Sean still isn't sure if Jason wants to go to the goal or give it up, but he's learned the offense."

Radebaugh agreed. "We're just getting to the point where we know where each other will be," he said. "But we complement each other well. Teams have to cover two really different styles."

Freshman Jake Bergey (15 goals, five assists) has been seeing a lot of playing time as the third man on the attack.

Another of Berkman's small-program recruits, Bergey (Chadds Ford, Pa.) chose lacrosse over football -- the sport of choice for his father, former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Bill Bergey.

A top player on defense has been Chris McQueeney, a 6-2, 200-pound sophomore from Southern High in Anne Arundel County.

Senior captain Dod Poe is Salisbury's best midfielder. Last year, the former Loyola High standout broke his arm before the NCAA tournament.

"At Loyola, we won two MSA championships. As a freshman here, we went undefeated [during the regular season], so it's been great," Poe said. "But this is the last go-around. We have to win it."

Berkman, meanwhile, tries to maintain perspective.

"I would certainly like to win a national championship," he said. "But if Jim Berkman goes 3-10, I'm not going to lose my job. That's not what Division III is all about. I think we have a strong program and will probably have a chance to compete for the championship for a long time."

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