By CHASE GORSKI
The Salisbury men’s lacrosse team (15-0, 8-0 CAC) sealed their postseason fate after a 17-10 win over No. 3 York College (14-2, 6-1 CAC) guaranteed them the number one seed and home-field advantage throughout the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) tournament.
In a match-up featuring the top two teams in the CAC and two of the top three teams in the nation, the Sea Gulls’ offense overwhelmed another opponent despite York’s defensive success this year.
Immediately following the opening face-off, Sea Gulls’ senior midfielder Duncan Campbell opened the scoring just nine seconds into the game, driving right to the goal and firing a shot past York’s junior goalkeeper Landry Marshall for his first goal of the season. The first shot of the game came uncontested after York’s defense expected Campbell to pass to another attacker.
“When other team’s slide I pass it to [Garbarino], but [York] didn’t slide which surprised me so I just shot it,” Campbell said. “It’s always pretty cool to score in a big game.”
No more than two minutes later the Gulls struck again, this time off the stick of sophomore midfielder Corey Gwin, his first of three on the night, making the score 2-0 and giving SU the early momentum.
But the Spartans showed fight early, trading goals throughout the beginning of the first quarter with the Gulls eventually cutting their lead to 3-2. That was the closest the Spartans would get to tying the game up, after Salisbury responded with three goals of their own and ending the first quarter up 6-3.
Both offenses slowed significantly in the second quarter as each team settled in defensively, with York breaking the silence seven minutes into the quarter and giving his sideline reason to celebrate, cutting the Salisbury lead to 6-4. But Campbell answered right back just 16 seconds later with his second goal of the night and of the season.
SU head coach Jim Berkman was especially pleased with how his midfielders handled the different looks that York’s defense gave them.
“We knew they weren’t going to slide on fast breaks, they didn’t want our attack to touch the ball,” Coach Berkman said. “I was proud of the way Duncan held his composure, it’s tough to run the ball that far in and that was two nice goals we had off of that.”
After a relatively quiet second quarter, the Sea Gulls entered the half up 8-5, while the Spartans got the last bit of action in the first half with a late goal.
Gwin, having already tallied two goals and an assist, started the second half in Salisbury’s favor after his third goal of the night made it 9-5. After the Gulls surrendered a goal to York, their usual offensive stars found their opportunity.
Salisbury went on a five-goal run including goals from junior midfielder Garrett Reynolds and senior attackers Nathan Blondino and Nick Garbarino.
Garbarino, who ended the night with three goals, is a key to Salisbury’s powerful offense in the second half of the season. While the Gulls look to ride their momentum created by the second half surge, Garbarino continues to affect the team both on and off the field.
“I try to help with leadership and vocals,” Garbarino said. “We’ve been clicking more because we’re all one unit, we’re on one page.”
Salisbury continued to pour on in the fourth quarter with four more goals from four different players, and by the end of the night, three Sea Gulls had collected hat-tricks, while four others were featured in both the assist and the goal columns. York’s offense showed its potential with three straight goals in the last three minutes of the game, but it was too little, too late as the final whistle blew, and Salisbury stood victorious 17-10.
Salisbury played a complete game, limiting York to 10 goals while leading in ground balls and clears. After 17 goals, Coach Berkman was glad to see multiple guys step up.
“I think we played pretty good on offense tonight and it was a variety of guys, the second midfield line again was very productive,” Berkman said. “It was just all nine offensive guys.”
The Sea Gull victory avenged a heartbreaking 10-9 loss to the Spartans last season in the CAC Championship, while also giving the team home-field advantage during this year’s tournament.
“Bus trips take a toll on you, especially your legs being cramped up for a couple hours,” Campbell said. “It’s always better to play at Sea Gull Stadium.”
Coach Berkman also realizes how important home-field advantage is, but like any great coach, his mind is already on the next task at hand.
“If we can take care of business on Friday, regardless of what happens in the conference tournament we are not going to have to play another road game, so Friday is a big game,” Berkman said. “Hopefully we can do what we need to do and we will be within the friendly confines of Sea Gull Stadium the rest of the way.”
The big game referenced by Coach Berkman is this upcoming Friday when the Sea Gulls travel to Pennsylvania to face No. 14 Cabrini University (8-3) in their regular-season finale. In the matchup between Salisbury and the Cavaliers last season, SU walked away with a commanding 17-8 victory.
While Coach Berkman already has the NCAA tournament at the forefront of his mind, both him and the Sea Gulls are fully focused on what is in front of them, a chance at regaining the CAC title for Salisbury. But after the Sea Gulls claimed their fourth victory over a top-25 team this season, SU fans can expect a long and exciting postseason run.