Salisbury earning attention old-fashioned way

Men's soccer team gains some redemption on way to NCAA quarterfinals

State notebook

November 18, 1999|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Despite beating top 10 teams Johns Hopkins, Mary Washington and Greensboro (N.C.), the Salisbury State men's soccer team didn't join the nation's elite during the regular season.

Now, the Sea Gulls (18-3-1) are there by the process of elimination, as South Regional champion and one of eight teams remaining in the NCAA Division III playoffs. They play at Wheaton College (17-2-2) in Illinois at 2 p.m. Saturday. A win would put the team in the national semifinals next weekend and serve as further vindication of its heretofore unrecognized strength.

With a 15-4-1 record last season, the Sea Gulls were passed over for an at-large bid after losing to York in the Capital Athletic Conference final. Despite the high-profile wins this season, the highest ranking the team garnered was No. 11 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll.

"In a way, we all felt we were shortchanged, that we should be in the top 10," said Salisbury goalkeeper and Calvert Hall grad Mike Svehla, CAC Player of the Year. "Right now, we're proving it since we're down to the final eight."

Salisbury State -- with the highest win total in school history -- reached this point with wins in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, beating Washington (Mo.), 3-2, on penalty kicks Friday, then the top region seed Greensboro, 2-0, on Sunday.

In his 18th season as coach of the Sea Gulls, Parkville native and Archbishop Curley grad Gerry Di Bartolo said that in many waysthis team is better than any he has coached.

"This team is the deepest and most talented team overall," said Di Bartolo, who also is dean of the business school. "Teams have had better individual players, but in terms of playing together as a team, this team is by far the best that I've had."

In the win over Greensboro, Salisbury State bore in on its opponent by using four players at the outside midfield spots, including three Baltimore-area products, Bernie Edwards (Severna Park), Adam Young (Severna Park) and Mike Steinen (Bel Air), along with Joe Iskow.

Another factor was the play of Svehla, a major reason the team has given up only nine goals this season. At his most effective, he can dominate games, as in the second-round match against Washington when he allowed one goal on five shots in a shootout to advance to the region final.

Opposing players often shoot the ball wide or high, conscious of their shot placement against Svehla.

"His presence is an intimidation factor for opposing players," Di Bartolo said.

Svehla's response: "I wish.

"I practice with some of the best Division III players in the country. Playing with these guys makes everyone better, not only for me but for everybody."

Loyola's search

Loyola is in search of a men's soccer coach after announcing that Bill Sento would not return for the 2000 season.

The school chose not to renew the contract of Sento, who earned Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors in his 20th season at Loyola. The Greyhounds went 13-6-2 last season and won the MAAC regular-season crown, but lost the conference championship game.

Sento, who had won 68 percent of his games, said he learned of the decision in early October by school president Rev. Harold Ridley and athletic director Joe Boylan.

He said that going six seasons without an NCAA tournament appearance hurt his cause, despite 12 conference championships and three NCAA appearances.

"They put a lot into the program and they expect a lot in terms of wins and losses," he said. "It was a pretty productive season, but in some people's eyes, not productive enough."

Boylan said he made the decision based upon long-term considerations, mainly that Sento, 57, wouldn't be working much longer and that to replace him would mean a transition at a relatively healthy time for the program.

"He had made it known to us that as he looked at it [his remaining time], it was going to be a relatively short time," Boylan said.

Tipping off

In addition to tomorrow night's Battle of Baltimore -- featuring Coppin State, Loyola, Towson and UMBC -- several other basketball teams begin action this weekend.

The Mount St. Mary's men, who won the Northeast Conference tournament and a trip to the NCAA tournament last season, travel to La Salle for a game at 7 p.m. Saturday, the same day that the NEC champion Mount women open with a 2 p.m. match at Radford.

The Bowie State women's team, ranked No. 22 in Division II, begins play tomorrow night in a tournament at Shippensburg (Pa.), while the Johns Hopkins men's team, ranked No. 13 in Division III by one poll, tips off at 8 tomorrow night against Villa Julie in the second game of the Blue Jay Classic. The Hopkins women, ranked No. 9, open Tuesday at Goucher.

In a season-opening tournament at Western Maryland, the Green Terror men (4-20 last season) face Gallaudet at 8.

Et cetera

The Morgan State women's volleyball team, owner of a 47-match winning streak in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, is host to the MEAC tournament starting tomorrow at Hill Field House. The Bears (19-8) are in pursuit of their third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, after losing five of six starters off last season's 18-win team.

UMBC (17-13), which also qualified for the NCAA tournament last season, will try to defend its Northeast Conference volleyball championship in the league tournament at St. Francis College in Loretto, Pa. Seeded second with an 8-1 league record in Felix Hou's first season as coach, the Retrievers play at 5 p.m. Saturday against the winner of an earlier St. Francis-Fairleigh Dickinson match.

Johns Hopkins swimmers Scott Armstrong and Steph Harbeson each won four individual events in a quadrangular meet with Emory, Carnegie Mellon and New York University. The Hopkins men won their meet, and the women finished second.

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