Salisbury unfazed by scheduled visit from top defense in nation

Wednesday night's NCAA tournament quarterfinal pits Sea Gulls' top-ranked offense vs. Cabrini's stingy defense

May 15, 2012|By Edward Lee

Only one team has been stingier on defense than Salisbury in Division III this season, and that team will visit Sea Gull Stadium in Salisbury in a NCAA tournament quarterfinal Wednesday night.

Cabrini has allowed just 4.5 goals per game this spring, which is just several tenths of a point ahead of the Sea Gulls’ 5.0 average. Only two opponents have reached double digits in scoring against the Cavaliers, who are 17-2 and riding a 16-game winning streak.

On the flipside, Salisbury boasts the most prolific offense in the country, scoring 18.3 goals per contest. Perhaps that’s why coach Jim Berkman didn’t sound too stressed about tangling with Cabrini’s defense.

“I don’t think we’re going to be doing a whole lot differently other than being aware of who they’re got and maybe of what some of their tendencies are,” he said Monday. “They’ve got a couple guys that like to throw trail checks and like to over-extend a little bit. So we’ve got to be aware of that. But they also have to be aware of the shooters that they’re going to face and haven’t seen all year. They haven’t seen that many good shooters on one team.”

The Cavaliers have been especially adept at pressuring opponents into coughing up the ball, forcing an average of 9.8 turnovers. Opposing teams are also surrendering 20.5 turnovers per game against Cabrini.

Berkman said the Cavaliers are long and aggressive on defense, but offenses that can avoid the pressure and pass their way out of trouble should be able to find quality opportunities.

“You’ve got to pick your poison,” he said. “If you can be aggressive and get away with it, that’s obviously to your advantage. But if you get over-extended, you’ve got some [midfielders] like [junior] Ryan Clarke and [senior] Sam Bradman and [senior] Cory Nowak who can run by you and leave you vulnerable on some four-on-threes and three-on-twos. That means that [senior attackmen] Matt Cannone and Tony Mendes and Eric Krum are going to have some shots. We like our chances if those guys are getting shots.”

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