By Chris Mackowiak
This weekend Salisbury University gets its first taste of the spring sports season when the defending-National Champion men’s lacrosse team begins their 2017 campaign in Sea Gull Stadium. The Sea Gulls are ranked preseason No. 1 in all of the major polls. Meanwhile inside Maggs Physical Activities Center, both of the Salisbury basketball teams are in the thick of the final stretch of the season.
Here is a preview of each of the contests taking place on campus on Saturday:
MLAX: Methodist University at No. 1 Salisbury, 1pm in Sea Gull Stadium
Salisbury will enter Sea Gull Stadium on Saturday as defending-National Champions for the first time since 2013. This season the mission becomes an attempt to win back-to-back National Championships for the first time since 2011 and 2012. The task may be a tall one, but the Sea Gulls are certainly the favorites again to get the job done.
The Sea Gulls return much of their talented squad from a season ago. The whole defense returns with senior goalkeeper Colin Reymann coming back to man the cage. Reymann posted a 6.42 goals-against-average in his 14 starts last season, including the 14-13 National Championship win over Tufts.
Most of the veteran losses for Salisbury come in the midfield and in the attack. However, many of the household names from a season ago return alongside younger talent. SU head coach also adds depth with two Division I transfers in both the attack and long-stick middy.
While Salisbury heads into their first match looking to gain confidence and consistency for their tough road ahead, Methodist comes in looking for a massive road upset.
The Monarchs are in their fourth season with a men’s lacrosse program, and head coach Zach Nedbalski has led Methodist to larger win totals with each season. Last year, the team posted a 9-9 record.
Now with their first senior class in team history, Methodist is packed with veteran talent on a roster featuring 20 upperclassmen, including 16 seniors.
The most exciting match-up may just be at center field on the face-off. SU senior middy Duncan Campbell returns after posting a 62 percent success rate on the face-off along side 83 ground balls, good for second on the team. He will be up against Methodist’s senior middy Jordan DeSalvo who tallied 71 percent in face-offs. He also led the team with 147 ground balls.
The bottom line is that lacrosse is back in Salisbury this weekend. The hope for both squads it that there will be many more answers than questions by the weekend’s end.
Coming up in the first print edition of The Flyer on Feb 14, we will have a season preview of the men’s lacrosse team.
WBK: York College (Pa.) at Salisbury, 2pm in Maggs
For Salisbury, the 2016-17 season has been up-and-down. A recent shift in the starting line-up has brought increased competition against opponents, including bringing Capital Athletic Conference leaders Christopher Newport and Mary Washington down to the wire.
The issue for Salisbury is that most of those close games have ended in defeat. The Sea Gulls started the season a promising 7-1, but since then have posted a 3-9 overall record. Salisbury finds themselves in the final spot for the CAC Playoffs currently, sixth place in the conference.
York leads a different tale this season, currently in fourth place of the CAC with a record of 15-5 (9-4 CAC). The Spartans currently hold a two-game lead over fifth place Frostburg State.
The last time the two teams met this season, York got the best of Salisbury with a 74-51 win at home. Salisbury senior forward Lauren Rothfeld recorded a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds. No other Salisbury player scored more than six points.
On the other side, York spread out their effort with 49 bench points alongside four players tallying points in double figures.
For Salisbury, they need to find consistency along multiple players. Rothfeld has the ability to be physical inside and score often, but the Sea Gulls need another one or two scorers to emerge. With five games still remaining, the team can still gain momentum to ride into the CAC Playoffs, despite potentially starting out on the road if they make it.
MBK: York College (Pa.) at No. 14 Salisbury, 4pm in Maggs
Coming off a sizeable 81-70 road win at Wesley College on Wednesday, Salisbury enters Maggs on Saturday winners of eight of their last 10 games. The Sea Gulls have amounted to a 16-4 overall record, while also currently placing second in the Capital Athletic Conference with an 11-2 record.
However, one of those two losses in the team’s last 10 games came at York back on Jan. 14. Salisbury led for most of the game, but a late stretch of three point shooting allowed the Spartans to make the comeback for a 78-74 win.
York upset Salisbury once during each of the last two seasons. The central reason has been a York player growing hot beyond the arc late in the game.
In their Jan. 14 win over the Gulls, York senior guard Brad Wesner came off the bench to finish with 18 points after going six of 11 from three-point range. Last season, it was then-sophomore guard Matt Scamuffo that found consistency from deep range. Scamuffo tallied 24 points in the game, including knocking down six three-pointers.
While Salisbury should control most of the game on paper, it could just come down to the final few minutes to see if the Sea Gulls can close it out. The whole squad of Sea Gulls are now back and healthy with both freshman center Nick Gittings and junior forward Barry Bratten returning to the court in the Wesley game.
At this point, Salisbury is on track to match their total wins (21) from a season ago, just within the regular season. They were able to lock up an NCAA at-large bid last season with a record of 21-6, while losing in the conference championship.
If the Sea Gulls run the table the rest of the way, they would enter the CAC Playoffs with those 21 wins and a potential match-up with No. 3 Christopher Newport down the line.
At this point, all Salisbury needs to do is take it one game at a time.
We’ll have a breakdown of Salisbury’s NCAA Tournament resume breakdown online on Sunday.