Sea Gulls' title dreams in site

Salisbury has had luck at College Park in past

May 29, 1999|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

For good luck, some people throw salt over their shoulders, while others caress rabbit's feet. Still, a hardy few carry horseshoes.

Jim Berkman has Byrd Stadium in College Park.

The coach of the Salisbury State men's lacrosse team has won two Division III championships in three attempts, and both victories occurred at the home of the Maryland Terrapins.

As the No. 3 Sea Gulls prepare to meet fifth-ranked Middlebury in the title game at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Byrd Stadium, Berkman is crossing his fingers that his streak will continue.

Salisbury State lost to Hobart in the 1991 final at Sea Gull Stadium, but defeated Hobart in 1994 and Nazareth in 1995 at Byrd for the national crown.

Attackman Peter Troup said he thinks the site is a good omen for the Sea Gulls.

"We certainly hope so," said the senior from Yorktown, N.Y. "We've been getting calls from alumni who've won there about how great it is there, the atmosphere and all."

A national crown would cap a phenomenal season that began with some question marks. Would the Sea Gulls rebound from a disheartening loss to eventual champ Washington College in last year's playoff semifinal? Would Salisbury State find scoring threats despite fielding a team that, in Berkman's words, had "no superstars"?

The answer to both questions is a resounding yes.

The Sea Gulls boast an impressive 17-1 record -- one win shy of breaking the school record for victories in a season -- and edged Washington in overtime, 16-15, in the last game of the regular season.

They have scored 281 goals -- more than 15 per game -- and are getting contributions from both their attack and midfield units.

Troup, a second-team All-American last year, and junior attackman Joe High, a Dulaney graduate from Phoenix, both have 76 points. High leads the team with 54 goals and has added 22 assists, and Troup has scored 47 goals with 29 assists.

The first midfield unit is headed by junior Chris Turner of Crofton (Arundel), this year's Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year, who has 27 goals and 23 assists. Junior Tim Parks of Bel Air (John Carroll) has notched 20 goals and six assists.

But Berkman said he relies just as heavily on some of his unheralded players, such as junior midfielder Chris Martin (Broadneck), who has only three points this season but has won 68 percent of his faceoffs.

"You can't beat better teams with just four or five guys," Berkman said. "I'm running 11 to 12 kids in the middle of the field. I think that we're running teams down."

Berkman also has been blessed with a defensive unit that might be unrivaled by any among Division III programs. Senior Darren Geraci, junior Hirbod Azmi and sophomore Mark Breier have combined for 170 ground balls and 73 take- aways, and senior goalkeeper Jason Tarnow, last year's league Most Valuable Player, boasts a .595 save percentage.

Together, they have surrendered a miniscule 116 goals, which is less than seven goals a game. The Sea Gulls have allowed only three of their 18 opponents to score 10 goals or more.

Azmi joked that the defense's job has been easy since the attack usually holds onto the ball for the majority of the game.

"We try not to let them take any shots," he said. "We try to push them out because we know that anything over 12 yards, Jason will stop."

The lone blemish on Salisbury State's record is a 10-8 loss against Gettysburg at home on April 3. Berkman said Gettysburg had employed a zone defense that his team was unprepared for.

But against the next five teams that tried a similar strategy, the Sea Gulls won all five games by a combined score of 62-25.

"There were some questions about our ability," Berkman said. "But we didn't care that we had lost a game in April. Big deal. We want to be playing our best in the last two weeks of May."

The victory over Washington injected a boost of confidence into Salisbury State, Troup said. The fact that the Sea Gulls beat their rivals on Washington's field before 2,000 screaming fans made it even more worthwhile.

"After that game, we felt like we had won the national championship," Troup said. "We went nuts."

Salisbury State has one more game before it can enjoy the summer, and Middlebury is just as imposing as Washington.

Middlebury is 15-1 and has an aggressive attack and midfield that runs just about as much as the Sea Gulls do, Berkman said.

"It's going to be like playing a mirror image of ourselves," he said. "They run up and down, they have a pressure defense. There won't be a hundred passes or a lot of waiting."

The Sea Gulls leads the series against Middlebury, 2-1, including a 14-9 triumph last season.

For Geraci, tomorrow's game is special for he and 12 other seniors.

"For us seniors, it's our last go-around," Geraci said. "I'd like to finish with a win."

NCAA lacrosse

Men's Division III

At College Park

Tomorrow's championship

Salisbury State vs.

Middlebury, 1 p.m.

Tickets

Tickets can be purchased by calling 800-462-8377. For tomorrow's Division III final: $10.

Pub Date: 5/29/99

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