Review & preview: Salisbury

A look at the 2013 season for the Sea Gulls and a glimpse into 2014

June 21, 2013|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Here is the seventh installment of a series that checks in with the eight Division III programs in the state to give a glimpse into the past and the future. Teams are scheduled to appear according to the chronological order in which their seasons ended. Thursday’s visit was with Washington College. Friday’s visit is with Salisbury.

REVIEW

The good: For the 10th time in the past 11 years, the Sea Gulls (17-6 overall and 6-0 in the Capital Athletic Conference) advanced to semifinals of the NCAA tournament, but this was not supposed to happen, was it? The team that had collected the program’s 10th national championship graduated six starters, two additional 20-goal scorers and two highly productive short-stick defensive midfielders. But Salisbury knocked off Washington and Lee and Dickinson in the second round and quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament before falling to Stevenson in the final four. “Obviously, we weren’t as good of a team as we had been the past few years, but I also thought we were good enough on defense that we would give ourselves a chance, and we played some great defense there,” coach Jim Berkman said. “I just thought that on any given day, we could’ve beaten anybody if we had gotten a break here or a break there. So I was excited about the way that we did play on the road there in those two victories that got us to the final four. So that didn’t surprise me.”

… The season did not get off to a good start when the team followed a season-opening thumping of Greensboro with back-to-back one-goal losses to then-No. 9 Lynchburg and unranked Washington and Lee on Feb. 16 and Feb. 20, respectively. But the Sea Gulls rebounded with nine consecutive wins and regain some much-needed confidence, which may have aided the team’s spurt in the postseason. “We got beat in two one-goal games early and then we put together nine games in a row there,” Berkman said. “We had a couple more bumps in the road, and then we put together a nice run at the end to get to the semifinals. We had to go on the road to two tough places to play, and we beat the No. 1 seed, which was undefeated. We got back to the final four and gave ourselves a chance, and fell a little bit short.”

… The defense took a step back slightly, allowing 6.0 goals per game this past spring compared with 5.0 in 2012. Nonetheless, the unit ranked fifth in Division III and was anchored by junior goalkeeper Alex Taylor (5.50 goals-against average and .615 save percentage). But the defense’s performance may have been fueled by turnover in personnel. Moving junior Zeke Smith (seven goals, one assist, 75 ground balls and 50 caused turnovers) from close defenseman to long-stick midfielder ignited the transition game, bumping down senior Brett Baer (3 G, 4 A, 46 GB, 24 CT) from long-stick midfielder to close defenseman exhibited his versatility, and inserting junior Josh Martin (28 GB, 30 CT) for injured junior Danny Sherr (feet) helped the unit continue its development. But it was the emergence of three short-stick defensive midfielders in juniot Tim Stone (1 G, 3 A, 30 GB, 14 CT) and freshmen Preston Dabbs (0 G, 3 A, 31 Gb, 28 CT) and Davis Anderson (2 G, 1 A, 51 GB, 18 CT) that really solidified the defense. “If you don’t have great D-middies, you’re not very good, and they were really critical because they could flat-out guard guys, and we didn’t have to slide to them a lot,” Berkman said. “I was very impressed with those guys.”

The bad: Two of Salisbury’s six losses were to archrival Stevenson; the Mustangs won the regular-season meeting on April 3, 10-8, and then handled the Sea Gulls, 12-6, in the NCAA tournament, tagging them with their worst setback since March 16, 2002 when SUNY-Cortland cruised to an 11-5 victory. Salisbury could not overcome a 5-1 deficit after the first quarter despite matching up with the Mustangs in the second half. “We dug ourselves a hole,” Berkman said. “And when we did make a hard run in the third quarter when we were dominating play, we didn’t get any return on our investment. We played them one-on-one in a period when we really outplayed them. That was kind of frustrating at that point. I thought we had played hard, but digging ourselves that hole early in the game was too hard to overcome.”

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