As Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene and Salisbury coach Jim Berkman have said, the outcome of Saturday's showdown between the Capital Athletic Conference rivals figures to be the first chapter in a thread that will expand for the remainder of the season.
Getting to the final result will involve another storyline.
The contest set for noon at Sea Gull Stadium features a Salisbury defense ranked second in Division III (4.3 goals per game) tangling with a Stevenson offense ranked fourth (17.5).
The No. 2 Sea Gulls (14-0) are anchored by senior goalkeeper Johnny Rodriguez and junior long-stick midfielder Andrew Sellers, but Berkman said the play of junior short-stick defensive midfielders Dean Rossi and Parker Dickerson have rounded out the unit.
"I think the emergence of Dean Rossi and Parker Dickerson at our D-middie position gives us two physically big, strong, athletic middies who play like long poles," Berkman said. "Even though they don't play with a long stick in their hands, they're able to physically shut people down, and we don't have to continually slide all the time to them like a lot of teams do."
On the flipside, the No. 3 Mustangs (14-1) boast six players with at least 16 goals each and eight with at least 10 goals each. Ten of the team's wins have resulted in double-digit margins of victory.
"I think our ball movement's better this year," Cantabene said. "I think we do a good job of getting a lot of people to score goals for us. Obviously, [senior attackman] Jimmy Dailey gets most of the points for us, but I think we move the ball really well and we have a lot more threats. Last year, we really only had one midfield line. This year, we feel we have two really quality midfield lines, and that's helping our offense a lot. I think we're moving the ball better, getting more opportunities, and that's helping the offense in general."
Hood makes first CAC tournament
Hood earned its first-ever berth in the six-team CAC tournament with an 8-5 win against Frostburg State on Tuesday. Prior to this season, the Blazers (7-6 overall, 3-4 CAC) had never beaten a conference foe or reached seven wins in a single season.
"It's huge that we're winning CAC games this year," said senior long-stick midfielder Dan Rocker, a Sykesville native and Century graduate. "That was the goal, and it was important for us seniors. We've been here a long time and never got that CAC win, so making the playoffs is just huge for us. It's really given our team a big boost."
Denver on the offensive
Denver's rise to fourth in The Sun's rankings has been built on an offense that ranks third in Division I in scoring with 13 goals per game. It's a stunning development to coach Bill Tierney — and a slightly bewildering one.
"To be honest, it's uncomfortable for me to know that we're averaging 13 goals per game because usually when you score more, you give up more," Tierney said. "I'd certainly rather give up less. But all that being said, I think you've got to go with the talent you have, and you can't force people into being something that they're not. Right now, we're a good offensive group and we're trying to become a better defensive group."
Duke set to meet Virginia without Turri
Duke coach John Danowski said the No. 5 Blue Devils (9-4) are prepared to meet No. 8 Virginia on Saturday and play their third straight game without junior midfielder Justin Turri, who has been sidelined by a sprained ankle.
"It's the old 'one day at a time' approach," Danowski said. "But I think in the long run, we would say no. Why play this week when he can be 100 percent the week after?"
Towson gets mea culpa
Towson received a letter of apology from the head of officials, who determined that an official did not give Tigers senior attackman Tim Stratton a full 10-second count to bring the ball into the box before whistling the play dead and giving possession to Massachusetts with nine seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Minutemen tied the score with less than one second remaining and got the game-winner in overtime to prevail, 9-8, last Saturday.
"It's the first time I can honestly say that a call took the game away from us," said coach Tony Seaman, who joked that he hadn't slept in four nights. "It has certainly influenced games over the years, but never just took a game away from us, but it did."
Notes: The winner of Saturday's contest between Mount St. Mary's (5-5, 2-0 Northeast Conference) and Quinnipiac (4-5, 2-0) will grab sole possession of first place in the conference. "It's the battle of the undefeated," Mountaineers coach Tom Gravante said. "It's going to dictate who stays on top and potentially hosts the tournament and who has to chase the leader."… UMBC freshman Phil Poe was named the America East Rookie of the Week for winning a combined 21 of 37 faceoffs in wins against Towson and Binghamton last week. Poe has won 35 of 66 draws this season and ranks second on the team in ground balls with 24.