SALISBURY - Things got a little sticky for the defending NCAA Division III men's lacrosse champions yesterday, and the sultry weather wasn't totally at fault.
Salisbury University just couldn't repulse the challenge of rival Washington College until the clock expired, finally prevailing, 13-11, at Sea Gull Stadium to return to the final Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Sea Gulls will play Nazareth, which beat Middlebury, 12-8.
In their regular-season meeting labeled "The War on the Shore" May 1, both entered unbeaten and ranked first (Salisbury) and second (Washington) in the country. The Sea Gulls routed the Shoremen, 21-7.
This time, Washington (18-3) was primed to redeem itself.
"For us, this was a game of pride," said Washington captain Stephen Berger (Mount St. Joseph). "We were focused. We eliminated some of their transition game and stayed right in it."
The Shoremen came out strong, scoring the first three goals within six minutes. Salisbury's explosive offense quickly recovered the lead by the end of the first quarter, but Washington refused to go away.
Four times the Shoremen fell behind by three in the second half, but never flinched. Berger scored the final goal unassisted with 4 1/2 minutes remaining as Washington went down fighting.
"When they went up 3-0, it was the same as the situation in the first game, but reversed," said Sea Gulls goalie Dan Korpon (Severna Park). "I was shocked. It was like, `What is going on?' My hat's off to them. They played a great game."
Nevertheless, the Sea Gulls summoned their deeper bench and talent to take control, albeit shaky control.
"We like to get [the ball] up and down, but it's hard to run when it's 90 degrees," said Salisbury coach Jim Berkman. "The heat just zaps you. But we play a few more players and that helped. Despite some adversity, we made a couple little adjustments on defense and pulled it out."
Washington had a 20-8 faceoff advantage thanks exclusively to freshman Mike Hughes (Mount St. Joseph), who continually bested Salisbury's Andy Murray (Centennial), the reigning Division III Player of the Year, who was called for pushing violations on the draw on four occasions.
"It's a tough one," said Shoremen coach J. B. Clarke. "We've been winning close games [two by 9-8 scores] in the playoffs. If we had been playing anybody but them, we probably would have done it again. I haven't had a team that fought as hard as this."
Perhaps a little comfortable after the first meeting, Salisbury started in a rather uninspired mood.
"When we played them before, the whole stadium was filled and people were two and three deep around the sidelines," said Korpon. "It just wasn't the same with less people [1,036 yesterday as opposed to 2,808]. But give them credit. They played a great game."
Salisbury is going to the national championship game for the seventh time, all since 1991.
Washington 4 3 2 2 - 11
Salisbury 5 2 4 2 - 13
Goals: W-Spivey 4, Berger 2, Brewer, Renner, Ostrusky, Nolan, McWilliams; S-Arnold 2, O'Neil 2, Simmons 2, Creighton 2, Rohde, Murray, Boyer, Reed, Edwards. Assists: W-Berger 3, Renner, Ostrusky, Dyal; S-Smith 3, Arnold 3, Rhode, Murray, Creighton. Saves: W-Yost 11; S-Korpon 11.