Thursday’s entry is the final installment of a week-long series taking a look at each of the eight Division III programs in this state according to their order of finish from last season. The Sun’s lacrosse preview is slated to be published on Friday, Feb. 17. This is Salisbury’s turn.
Overview: The Sea Gulls added another chapter to their storied history by capturing their ninth national championship last spring. The team won 21 of 22 contests and avenged a 9-6 loss to Tufts by blasting the Jumbos, 19-7, in the NCAA Tournament final. Despite several key graduation losses, Salisbury has been tabbed by several publications as the top-ranked team in Division III.
Reason for optimism: Each of last year’s three starting attackmen finished with at least 48 goals and 65 points – and they’re back for their senior seasons. The chemistry between Matt Cannone (49 goals and 39 assists), Erik Krum (52, 16) and Tony Mendes (48, 17) is evident, and the trio provides coach Jim Berkman with a generous amount of comfort. “They’re three pretty special guys that have been playing together since last year and really know each other,” Berkman said. “They’ve played exceptionally well in the first seven days of practice.”
Reason for pessimism: A defense that ranked third in the country last season in scoring (an average of 5.7 goals allowed) bid farewell to starting defensemen Collin Tokosch (45 groundballs and 21 caused turnovers) and Nick Mooney (33, 30). Senior Chad Surman (24, 14) is back, and senior Andrew Sellers (32, 22) and sophomore Zeke Smith joined him as starters in the team’s 19-6 rout of Greensboro Sunday. But Berkman said he would have no qualms about starting sophomore Danny Sherr, freshman Knute Kraus or a pair of long-stick midfielders in Evan Hockel (38 groundballs in 2011) and junior Brett Baer (21). “We’ve got seven guys that we can mix and match from pole and close and that are real good defensemen,” Berkman said.
Keep an eye on: The Sea Gulls unearthed a find in Tyler Granelli, who won 65.3 percent of his faceoffs (220-of-337) and scooped up 110 groundballs. Berkman said what’s even scarier is that Granelli is poised to exceed last year’s total of three goals and three assists. “I think what’s better is that he’s in better shape this year,” Berkman said. “He’s lost 10 pounds, he looks fitter, and his offensive skills have developed a little more because he’s fitter.”
What he said: For years, Salisbury has been the one team many opponents target, and that spotlight figures to get even brighter after last year’s achievement. That doesn’t faze Berkman. “I imagine as a player, you like to get that shot. But I don’t imagine a coach always wanting everybody’s best shot,” he joked. “But the reality is this is what it’s kind of been like for a while. When you’re the measuring stick – and it wouldn’t matter if it was us or Kentucky in basketball or LSU or Alabama in football – kids want to measure themselves up against somebody or somebody’s team, and you probably get their best mental and physical preparation.”