Salisbury captures 17th conference title, awaits league tournament

No. 5 Sea Gulls assured themselves of top seed and home-field advantage throughout Capital Athletic Conference tournament

April 15, 2013|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Reigning national champion Salisbury was rewarded for Saturday’s 15-4 rout of St. Mary’s with the program’s 17th Capital Athletic Conference regular-season title. The Seahawks (1993-94) and Stevenson (2009 and 2011) are the only other teams that have captured league championships, and the Sea Gulls (13-3 overall and 6-0 in the conference) assured themselves of the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the tournament.

But Salisbury will not know its semifinal opponent until the upcoming weekend. Frostburg State (9-5, 1-3) and Mary Washington (7-5, 1-3) will meet Wednesday, and the winner will take a giant step towards earning the No. 4 seed in the tournament. But the Sea Gulls – who meet No. 12 Washington College Wednesday night in nonconference action – are happy to take a wait-and-see approach.

“Our first goal is to always win the conference,” coach Jim Berkman said Monday morning. “We got the regular season so that we can be in a position to have home games for the playoffs. That was important for us to put ourselves in that position.”

Salisbury – which moved from No. 6 to No. 5 in the latest United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll – has won 12 of their past 13 contests, losing only to No. 4 Stevenson, 10-8, on April 3.

Despite the season-ending injury to senior midfielder Ryan Clarke that sapped the roster of a member of the Tewaaraton watch, the Sea Gulls have developed over the course of the season.

“I would say that we’ve gotten a lot more confidence and experience from playing with each other,” Berkman said. “I think a lot of guys are now getting used to playing with one another and doing some of the things that only time can create.”

During Salisbury’s run, only the Mustangs scored more than eight goals, and opponents have averaged just 5.1 goals against the defense. Conference opponents are having an even tougher time, scoring an average of 4.0 goals.

That unit figures to be a pivotal component as the Sea Gulls attempt to capture the program’s 11th NCAA crown, but Berkman said an offense that has scored 12.4 goals per game will also be key.

“We’ve been leaning on [the defense] the whole year, but by the same token, our offense is something that can score now, too,” he said. “I think right now, the defense has put us in a position to evolve as a team offensively and have some solid success this year. But now because of our defense and the evolution of our offense, I like our chances on any given day against anybody.”

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