By Chris Mackowiak
Cover photo courtesy of Chris Mackowiak
On the first day of February in Salisbury University Athletics, the basketball teams close in on their Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Tournaments and the spring sports begin practices in preparation for their opening days. Here is an update on where teams are, or will start, in the national rankings:
The Sea Gulls will open the 2017 season in the Top 25 nationally. The preseason D3baseball.com poll ranked the defending-CAC Champions at No. 24. Fellow conference teams Frostburg State and Christopher Newport received votes in the poll.
According to the coaches, Salisbury will also start the season as the favorites to take the 2017 conference crown. In the CAC preseason baseball poll, the coaches voted the Sea Gulls into the No. 1 spot with 77 points including six of 10 first place votes. Following behind Salisbury in the poll was Frostburg State with 69 points and two first-place votes. FSU fell to the Sea Gulls in the 2016 CAC Championship.
For opening day, Salisbury will host Gwynedd Mercy on Feb. 11.
The Salisbury men’s basketball team (15-4, 10-2 CAC) continues their strong second season under head coach Andrew Sachs, continually appearing in the national rankings. The team is coming off a 67-63 win over the University of Mary Washington in Maggs Physical Activity Center Saturday night.
After falling on the road against No. 3 Christopher Newport (17-2, 11-1 CAC) last Wednesday, the Sea Gulls dropped two spots in the D3hoops.com national rankings to No. 14. The two rival schools have split home-and-home contests this season. SU took the earlier match-up back on Dec. 17 59-58 on a last second half-court heave from junior forward Chad Barcikowski.
CNU and Salisbury hold the first and second places respectively in the CAC standings. York College (Pa.) (12-7, 7-5 CAC) is the closest team to the top two at three games back of the pace. Home-field advantage in the conference playoffs is still up for the taking between the two teams with only one game marking the difference between the two.
Salisbury next takes the court tonight up Route 13 against the Wesley College Wolverines (8-11, 6-6 CAC). The two last met two weeks ago when Salisbury, hampered by injuries, narrowly avoided the upset 70-68 with a bucket from senior forward Wyatt Smith in the final seconds.
Salisbury enters a season with the title of defending-National Champions for the first time since 2012. After a dramatic 14-13 win over Tufts in Philadelphia eight months ago, head coach Jim Berkman hoisted his eleventh national championship at the helm.
Other than the title of defending national champions, the Sea Gulls will be at the top of the two major polls to start the 2017 season. In both the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) preseason poll and Insidelacrosse.com preseason poll, Salisbury is tabbed as the No. 1 team in the nation. York College, the only school to defeat Salisbury last season, is close behind the Gulls in both polls at No. 7 and No. 4 respectively.
The men’s lacrosse team begins their 2017 campaign with a home match against Methodist University this Saturday. The two schools have never met in the sport. This is Methodist’s fourth year with a men’s lacrosse program.
Last season, the Salisbury women’s lacrosse team found their NCAA Tournament run cut short in heart-breaking fashion at home in a 6-5 overtime loss to Franklin and Marshall. After a 15-2 regular season campaign and then a CAC Championship, the Sea Gulls made it to the Elite Eight under head coach Jim Nestor.
In the mission to continue their success, Salisbury will begin at the No. 5 spot in the nation according to the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches’ Association’s preseason poll. At No. 1 is Middlebury College. Salisbury is joined in the poll by fellow CAC-school York at No. 10.
The Sea Gulls will wait until Feb. 18 to get their season underway with a home match in Sea Gull Stadium against Stevenson University.