By CHRIS MACKOWIAK
SU men’s lacrosse senior face-off specialist Duncan Campbell scoops up a groundball and rushes toward York’s side of the field. The senior fakes a pass and rips a shot into the lower frame of the goal. 1-0 Gulls.
Last week marked one of the most highly anticipated matches of 2017. No. 1 Salisbury hosted No. 3 York (Pa.) in the considered Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) regular season title game.
From Campbell’s opening goal—his first of the season—the Sea Gulls’ offense showcased their talents in front of a national audience to win 17-10 and claim home-field advantage in the upcoming conference tournament.
The Sea Gulls are soaring into the CAC Championship Game on Saturday with a 16-1 overall record. However, it was one win recently that rose above them all for this team, one step in the greater road to a second-straight National Championship.
Back on March 29 up Route 13 at Wesley College, SU men’s lacrosse head coach Jim Berkman struck gold, and some maroon too, with career win No. 500 in a 26-4 victory. With 11 National Championships, 19 conference titles and 28 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) appearances all under his belt, this particular victory has been a long time coming for the historic head coach.
“All the work he’s put in over the years—it shows year after year, and I’m glad that I could be a part of it,” SU senior goalkeeper Colin Reymann said.
In all of those accolades, coach Berkman sees the hard work that so many players and coaches have put in alongside him on and off the field.
“It’s just a tribute to all the players and coaches that have been here over the last 29 years and how hard they’ve worked to make this all possible,” coach Berkman said. “It’s something to honor their efforts and success over the last 29 years. I just happen to be the guy that’s running the ship.”
“It’s definitely a very special moment for him, and he’s humble about it the whole time. All the credit goes out to him in his 20-plus seasons in lacrosse and at Salisbury,” SU senior attacker Carson Kalama said.
It is the humbling quality that may provide the greatest foundation for such a successful men’s lacrosse program. It seems fitting that this honor comes after a 2016 season that saw much adversity towards the start of NCAA Tournament play. In 2017, coach Berkman also faced a key mentor in his life: Gettysburg head coach Hank Jancyk, who has accumulated over 420 wins in his long career.
All but one season of coaching—at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Potsdam—have been here at Salisbury for coach Berkman. Since then, the former All-American midfielder at St. Lawrence has capitalized on his time at Salisbury, using his numerous experiences at different stops along the way.
As one of his favorite moments, coach Berkman fondly remembers his first title at Salisbury, facing Hobart College in 1994. One that matches that memory is the 2008 National Title that he had the opportunity to win with his son Kylor, a three-time National Midfielder of the Year.
“He was a guy that made a big impact to our program. He didn’t go Division I, and he stayed here,” coach Berkman said. “He won a couple championships and played in three championship games.”
The maroon and gold continues to run very deep in the Berkman family. His daughter Keli was a member of the 2010 Salisbury women’s lacrosse team that won a National Title under current head coach Jim Nestor.
Berkman’s Salisbury imprint stretches beyond Sea Gull Stadium into the SU Soccer Complex, leading the SU women’s soccer program for seven seasons and to two CAC Championships.
For the many players that have played under Berkman and walked the tunnel walk, they feel an impact from their head coach, making them both better players and better people. The culture that Berkman has developed trickles even to the players today.
“I feel like there’s role models to look up to in every class, even some of the younger guys on our team you can look up to at times,” Reymann said. “We just have a great culture.”
At the core, it is the hard-work ethic that has created the foundation for many of Berkman’s players.
“He’s taught us many things that relate to lacrosse, but importantly, [about] being a better man. On and off the field, I think one of the biggest lessons that he’s taught me is that effort equals outcome,” Kalama said.
Within the future playoff games, there may lie yet another milestone for the head coach: 500 wins just at Salisbury University. It is a milestone that the seniors are keeping an eye on, and it may align with an early round of the NCAA Tournament.
At the end of the day for Berkman and his Sea Gulls, the win at Wesley is just that—a win on the road to greater prizes: a CAC Championship and then potentially a trip to Boston in late May.
“Anything that results in us doing our jobs on a day-to-day basis is just icing on the cake,” coach Berkman said.
While this men’s lacrosse program enjoyed a brief celebration on a Wednesday night in March, their hunger grows for greater rewards from the top work ethic that coach Berkman teaches his players each and every day.