By CHASE GORSKI
The Salisbury men’s lacrosse team (13-0, 6-0 CAC) continued their unbeaten season with a commanding 17-5 victory over Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) opponent Christopher Newport (8-4, 3-2 CAC).
Less than a minute into their Wednesday evening match-up against the Captains, Salisbury took the lead on the first of three goals from senior attacker Carson Kalama. What followed was an offensive onslaught that the Captains could not contain.
The Gulls piled on 10 goals from six different players in just the first half, before CNU made their way onto the scoreboard with a goal from senior attacker Will Geise as time expired in the second quarter, giving SU the 10-1 lead at half.
The game was filled with dominance on both sides of the field for Salisbury. While they struggled initially to win face-offs, the Gulls made up for it with an electric offense that continued to produce shot after shot, and a defense that resembled a brick wall.
By the end of the game, the crowd saw eight different Sea Gulls join the scoring frenzy, with Kalama, senior attacker Nathan Blondino and senior midfielder Brendan Bromwell each recording a hat trick.
Blondino, just a week after being named both the CAC Offensive Player of the Week as well as the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Player of the Week, continued his offensive tear to lead the Sea Gull flock with eight points, four goals and four assists.
“We had a slow start to the season offensively and we knew that, so it was our job to come out and get better,” Blondino said. “The defense has been holding us up all season so we feel like we owe it to them.”
Despite the slow start to the season, the offense has started to hit its stride in the recent weeks. Since their 10-6 win over Ohio Wesleyan, the Gulls have outscored their opponents 166-67, while averaging over 20 goals a game within that eight-game stretch. However, the defense has been the cornerstone of this team, only allowing an opposing team to score double-digit goals once this season; opponents average just over five goals per game against the Gulls.
Before Wednesday’s game, CNU’s offense was averaging over 13 goals per game this season, but the Sea Gulls defense, led by senior defenseman Aaron Leeds, shut down their opponents. Leeds, who led the team in ground balls with eight, as well as caused turnovers with four, feels the work ethic of the defense is what helps them to perform at such a high level.
“A lot of it is our ‘edge’ workouts that we do outside of practice which include lifting, running and wall-ball,” Leeds said. “That prepares us for big games like this.”
Leeds, along with his fellow seniors, remembers the feeling of Salisbury’s loss years ago that ended their perfect season back in 2014 and has used that to fuel himself with each match-up against the Captains.
“Always in the back of my head is freshman year—we went down there the first time we played them and it was a bitter loss in overtime,” Leeds said. “This [win] helps a little bit, but it never fully goes away.”
Both the offense and the defense seem to be clicking at the right time for Salisbury and their energy is at an all-time high. With key in-conference match-ups on the horizon for the Gulls, that enthusiasm is an important factor to keep the team motivated down the home stretch of the season.
“There’s been a different vibe on the team the past four weeks. . .everyone’s getting really excited towards the end of the season,” Blondino said. “We’re putting up big numbers, we’re playing great defensively and I think the team is coming together as a whole and that’s what we need to win a championship.”
SU head coach Jim Berkman, in his twenty-ninth season coaching the Sea Gulls, knows what it takes to win when it counts and knows what the team needs in order to succeed late in the season.
“To win a championship you need a second midfield. . .we had four goals from the second midfield line and they’re a threat,” coach Berkman said. “That allows them to play more, so that when our first line is playing, they’re fresh.”
Salisbury will have their work cut out for them in the two final CAC matchups of the season against Frostburg State (8-4, 4-1 CAC) on the road Saturday and, finally, the much-anticipated match-up with No. 3 York (13-1, 5-0 CAC) in Sea Gull Stadium next Wednesday. But after Wednesday’s win, SU’s confidence is high.
“The team’s playing with a lot of pride right now—they realize the guys before them that wore the maroon and gold and the legacy here,” coach Berkman said. “Everybody’s up for every game, our preparation is good and I like where we are right now.”
With the end of the regular season right around the corner, all eyes are on the possibilities for the playoffs. But as of now, the road to the CAC championship runs through Salisbury.