Back-up goalie helps Salisbury rally past Stevenson, 16-14

April 23, 2011|By Rich Scherr, Special to The Baltimore Sun

Playing behind all-conference goalie Johnny Rodriguez, Salisbury University senior Tim Swinburn had little reason to believe he'd even see action in Saturday's Division III lacrosse showdown at Stevenson.

With his team on the ropes near halftime, however, Swinburn got the call, and over the next 37 minutes he transformed from the role of bit player to hero.

After trailing by as many as five, the third-ranked Sea Gulls held top-ranked Stevenson scoreless for the next 20 minutes, 42 seconds, scoring eight straight goals to take control before emerging with a 16-14 win in the Capital Athletic Conference final before an announced 1,540.

"I've been waiting for this for three years now," said Swinburn, who had a career-high 12 saves. "Coach has always told me to be ready, so I kind of go into every game with that mindset — just be ready and they might call my name. Today just happened to be my lucky day, I guess."

The win gave Salisbury (16-1) — which had lost to Stevenson by four goals last weekend — one of 16 automatic bids to next month's NCAA tournament, as well as the inside track to a No. 1 seed and home-field advantage. Stevenson (16-2) is all but assured an at-large berth in the 26-team field.

That's little consolation for the Mustangs, who seemed firmly in control of this one for much of the way.

Paced by the dominant play of midfielder Ray Witte, who won nine of his first 11 faceoffs, Stevenson broke out to an 8-3 lead after scoring five straight goals to end the first quarter. Dulaney graduate Neal Barthelme (six goals) and former Winters Mill star Jimmy Dailey (two goals, four assists) led an offense that peppered Rodriguez (Mount St. Joseph) with 31 shots in the first half.

With his team trailing 11-7, Salisbury coach Jim Berkman felt he needed a change.

"We just needed a spark. It was one of those things," Berkman said. "You get to that point and you've got to try something."

Intending to give Rodriguez a couple minutes to regroup, Berkman ended up giving his team a much-needed boost. Swinburn, who had played mostly mop-up duty in parts of 10 games this season, began making save after save, including several at point-blank range.

His teammates quickly responded. Trailing 12-7, Salisbury locked down the middle of the field, started forcing turnovers and reeled off eight straight goals.

Midfielder Tony Mendes (five goals, one assist) scored three during the stretch, including the go-ahead goal off a feed from Dean Rossi with 2:07 left in the third quarter.

By the time attackman Matt Cannone scored a pair of goals in the final minute of the quarter, the Sea Gulls had extended their lead to 15-12.

"We were all kind of angry," Mendes said. "Stevenson came in and beat us the first game at our place. We were down five goals, just like the first game, and we knew we could come back. Coach got us pumped up during halftime, made some switches and we played well."

Stevenson also continually hurt its own cause, converting just two of 13 extra-man opportunities.

"We didn't buckle down and make the plays we needed to," Mustangs coach Paul Cantabene said. "We had some opportunities to make plays and we didn't do it, and they made plays when they needed to. Our extra man's got to play much better. Two of 13 — that was brutal."

As the NCAA tournament approaches, there could very well be a Round 3 in the series. A year ago, the two teams met in the NCAA semifinals, with Salisbury winning by a goal.

Should that happen, Salisbury can only hope for as dominant a game in goal.

"Timmy made the most of his opportunity today," Berkman said. "He was the difference for us in the second half."

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