Sea Gulls flying high thanks to Bradman

Sophomore powers Salisbury's run to NCAA Division III title game

  • Salisbury's Sam Bradman checks Stevenson's Tyler Maguire.
Salisbury's Sam Bradman checks Stevenson's Tyler… (Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd…)
May 26, 2010|By Edward Lee | The Baltimore Sun

After Salisbury's 14-13 overtime victory over Stevenson on Sunday propelled the Sea Gulls to their 12th NCAA Division III national title game, Sam Bradman opened his Facebook account to find 90 congratulatory messages.

"Kids I don't even know are Facebook-ing me," the Salisbury sophomore midfielder said. "So I'm trying to do it for those guys; I'm trying to do it for the people back home; I'm trying to do it for my parents and my family. I guess that's a lot of pressure, but it's like any other game."

Bradman can expect a few more friend requests if Salisbury, the top seed in the tournament's South region, collects its ninth national championship. But if the Sea Gulls (21-1) intend to beat Tufts, the No. 2 seed in the North region that upset reigning national titlist Cortland, at noon Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, they're going to need Bradman.

In just his second year, he has established himself as the team's most potent playmaker and one of the country's top midfielders. Bradman, who was named to the All-American first team earlier this week, has recorded 58 goals and 27 assists this season, leading Salisbury in goals and points.

He's certainly made an impression with Jumbos coach Mike Daly.

"He might be the best player in the country," Daly said. "That's what will be fun and challenging. But it's a team sport, and I'm sure he knows that and I'm sure Coach [Jim] Berkman reminds him of that. I don't know much more than that other than I wouldn't bet against my guys. They play great team defense; they play great team offense; they look out for each other. We're really focused on our team and our effort and when that happens, that's when the best things go right for us."

Bradman also is one of the Sea Gulls' leaders in a dubious category: turnovers. His 42 turnovers rank second on the team to senior midfielder Mike Von Kamecke's 58.

But if you think Berkman is alarmed by those numbers, think again. Berkman said the turnovers are an indication of Bradman's recently developed attitude to be aggressive against opposing defenses.

"When you give a player room to take risks and he has the talent, he can really thrive because he doesn't have to worry about mistakes," Berkman said. "If you're going to make plays, you're going to make mistakes. He's taken that torch and run with it."

That wasn't always the case last season. Some of that may have had to do with playing extensively as a freshman, and some of that may have been linked to the presence of Kylor Berkman, who would become the first player in Division III history to be named the National Midfielder of the Year three times and in three consecutive years.

Bradman said Kylor Berkman — Jim Berkman's son — emphasized to Bradman that he should force opponents to adapt to him, not vice versa.

"He told me to just play my game because nobody has the unique style of play that we do," said Bradman, who posted 17 goals and 24 assists in his rookie campaign. "He told me, 'My dad is going to yell at you a little bit for doing dumb stuff, but you've just got to get past that. Understand that you're going to have to make some mistakes. You're going to turn the ball over, and you're going to do some risky stuff. Sometimes you'll get away with it and sometimes you won't. But most of the time, you will. So just play your game.'"

Because of Bradman's prowess at creating from up top, he usually draws an adversary's best defenseman. Most notably, he's had some classic match-ups with Stevenson junior defenseman Evan Douglass, who shut out Bradman in the Mustangs' 10-6 win that ended Salisbury's string of 15 straight Capital Athletic Conference tournament crowns.

Bradman said he relishes the opportunity to attack an opponent's top defender.

"I actually love that challenge just because I get to see new people, and now that it's playoff time, we're starting to see new teams," he said. "When we do our scouting, I have to study them [on game film]. When they're coming in [from the sideline], Coach tells me, 'This is your guy. This is the guy you're probably going to get.' … He gives me a little heads up on the guy, but then I've got to do my own studying. I love that challenge. It doesn't add any extra pressure because I've been dealing with a pole my whole life. So I just go after them. Coach says to go after them because he knows I can beat some of the poles."

Bradman has had a quiet postseason thus far, registering just four goals and two assists in three games. But Jim Berkman pointed out that Bradman's ability to initiate and force defensemen to slide to him creates scoring chances for his teammates.

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