By CHRIS MACKOWIAK
After winning their last three games by a combined five goals, the Salisbury University men’s lacrosse team (5-0) took down the No. 13 Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) Battling Bishops (2-3) 10-6 with a dominating second half performance Saturday afternoon.
From the first face-off, it was the speed and up-tempo play of the Bishops that threw Salisbury off their mark. Ohio Wesleyan held most of the possession in the game up until their first goal, which came from sophomore offensive middie Cole Jamieson—his sixth of the season.
The Bishop success spurred on the Sea Gulls’ attack, ending in a goal just over one minute later. SU senior attacker Nate Blondino found an open senior attacker Nick Garbarino to tie up the game. Saturday was Garbarino’s first action of the season after missing the first four games due to a suspension.
“It’s a totally different perspective looking from the sidelines. You can see way more things. It’s like looking from a skybox,” Garbarino said. “That’s where I tried to help the [other] players out.”
After tallying 29 goals and four assists last season, Garbarino finished with a team-leading four goals on the afternoon.
Blondino connected on a goal of his own off of a senior offensive middie Brendan Bromwell pass to end out the first quarter. The goal put Salisbury up 2-1 into the initial pause in action.
Much of the same continued into the second quarter for Salisbury. A streak of four unanswered goals kept strong with connections from senior attacker Adam Huber and another from Garbarino.
Ohio Wesleyan halted the SU offensive run with two goals of their own to round out the half. Sophomore attacker Steven Hilldebrand and junior offensive middie Luke Leyden both converted to cut the deficit to 4-3 at the break. Last season, Leyden scored five times in a 13-12 overtime thriller between the two schools.
The third quarter is where the maroon and gold came alive on the offensive end. After a quiet period to start the second half, Salisbury exploded with four goals in nine minutes. Huber converted his second of the day to start things off. Bromwell, senior attacker Kevin McDermott and Garbarino all followed suit, scoring tallies on the scoreboard.
Over the course of the 4-0 third quarter run for the Gulls, Blondino assisted on two separate occasions. The second team all-American recorded five points on the day through two goals and three assists to take the team lead in points (18).
“Offensively, we just had a very solid day. We were expecting a lot of transition, honestly, and it kind of wasn’t in the game. It was more of a six-on-six game, which we’re fine with. We can play either way,” Blondino said.
“Having Garbarino back was a huge addition. The sideline was up today. There was just a different vibe in the locker room.”
The strong third quarter effort proved to be the difference for Salisbury. Entering the fourth quarter, the Sea Gulls’ lead blossomed to five. That lead continued to increase after another Blondino and then Garbarino goal.
Ohio Wesleyan did find some life late in the action with two goals in the fourth quarter, but it was to no avail. Team-leading goal-scorer and sophomore attacker Connor Caffrey scored both early and later-on in the final quarter of play. 2016 North Coast Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year and sophomore attacker Max Tennent added a goal in between.
The Salisbury defense shut down the Ohio Wesleyan offense for the final eight minutes of the contest. SU senior goalkeeper Colin Reymann was stout in the cage, saving nine of 15 shots. His defense in front of him forced 34 ground balls compared to the Bishops’ 22. Senior long-stick middie Andrew Ternahan led the way with seven ground balls and two caused turnovers.
“We really were disciplined in our checks. We had a game plan going into it and executed it. Everyone together as one. Seven guys protecting one goal,” SU junior defender Kyle Tucker said.
The face-off battle was a contentious issue the whole afternoon with many clashes between the face-off specialists. Overall, OWU won 11 of the 20 face-offs through the strong play of junior long-stick middie Bradford Marcotte, who won 10 of his 16. His play allowed possession early and often for the Bishops.
A point of emphasis for both teams entering the game on Saturday was over success on man-up situations. Both teams had only scored five times on 18 chances through their first four games of the season. In 2016, OWU averaged a 54.4 percent success rate, while Salisbury boasted a 48.2 percent success rate.
At the end of the game, both sides still face questions in the category with SU going one of four and OWU shut out on five chances.
“We have a good man-down team. We have a good range of guys with long arms. They play well together. There’s a lot of speed down there, and then you have a good goalie on the back line,” SU head coach Jim Berkman said.
The next stop for the defending-National Champions is a date with Washington College (4-0) for their annual War at the Shore game on Saturday. The Sea Gulls took down the Shoremen 14-2 in commanding fashion a season ago. Coach Berkman sees plenty of opportunity for improvement in the week ahead.
“We got a lot of shots early, but we didn’t put them on goal. The ones we did put on goal, we hit them right in the chest. Our shooting just has to improve,” coach Berkman said.