BY RICKY POLLITT
They say defense wins championships, but with the Salisbury men’s lacrosse team it’s all about offense when it comes to getting the victory.
Throughout the first half of the 2016 season, the Sea Gulls average 17.54 goals a game; ranking fourth in all of Division III.
With a unit led by senior midfielder Thomas Cirillo and junior attacks Carson Kalama and Nathan Blondino, Salisbury’s offense has been a nightmare for opposing defenses all season long.
The trio of Sea Gulls have all tallied 25 plus goals this year combining for 45-percent of Salisbury’s total goals scored.
“If we come out and do our system, and play the way we do every day, we can hang points on anybody,” Cirillo said.
Coming into the season, Salisbury players and coaches expected the offense to be the focus and carry the team throughout the year.
The Sea Gulls lost defenders Austin Kemp and All-American Knute Kraus to graduation, as well as goalie Connor Anderson who finished the season with a goals against average of 4.92.
The defense would see a lot of new faces, making the offense’s impact pivotal in the team’s success.
“That (defensive) group has a lot of potential,” Sea Gulls’ head coach Jim Berkman said. “Will (Nowesnick), Aaron Leeds and Kyle Tucker are really solidifying the back end, and with the stick skills they have, they can do a lot to help our team.”
Although the defense has held its own in the 2016, all eyes have been on the Salisbury offense and the speed and accuracy the unit has when it comes to putting goals on the scoreboard.
The ability for the Salisbury attacks and midfielders to line up 15 to 20 yards away from the net, and fire a bullet shot into the 6×6 goal, has given opposing defenses
The challenge of having to cover areas of the field some defenses wouldn’t think of covering.
The long shot is also complimented with the action at the crease, where Kalama and fellow attack Brady Dashiell have seen most of their success.
From scoring 20 yards out, to going one-one-one with the opposing goalie near the crease, the Salisbury offense has consistently stayed a well-balanced unit.
“As an offense it’s a collective group. Our system puts every person in their spot, and I think we’ve got a great thing working,” Cirillo said. “We expect to win every game we’re on the field with the team we have.”
Along with the top three scorers, the Gulls also spread the ball out and share the wealth when it comes to getting the stats.
Dashiell, midfielders James Burton, Brendan Bromwell and Garrett Reynolds have also recorded 10 or more goals throughout the first half of the season.
With a plethora of weapons the Sea Gulls have when it comes to scoring, Salisbury not only defeats opponents, but ends games with a large margin of difference between the two scores.
“They all play very unselfish,” Berkman said. “That whole first nine guys on offense is outstanding, and with those guys we’re a tough out.”
Eight games so far in 2016 have been decided by seven goals or more, with Salisbury biggest margin of victory coming at 28-4 win over Wesley.
“I think what makes us good is the variety of people we’ve got,” Blondino said. “We’re going into game, putting up good numbers. The attacks and middies are working well together, so we go and look at the stats and everyone’s getting good numbers.”
With a perfect record after 11 games, the Gulls are holding onto their best start since the 2012 season – the team’s last NCAA championship victory.
The most recent Division III rankings has the offense ranked second trailing only Illinois Wesleyan. SU is ranked third in points and first in assist; posting over 50 more than any other team.
Although one player does not stand out among the others, it is the unit’s ability to function together and develop the chemistry necessary to succeed and ultimately score goals.
From four-year seniors, to the new faces on the squad, the Salisbury offense has become a force to be reckoned with no matter who the opponent is.
“We’ve got to keep rolling each game, and get ready for playoffs,” Blondino said. “We want to get back there and compete for a National Championship, and I think this is the team to do it.”