By ZACH GILLELAND
364 days ago, Salisbury tasted its only defeat of the season.
364 days ago, the undefeated Sea Gulls fell to the York College (Pa.) Spartans in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Championship game.
This is a story about redemption. Although Salisbury and York met earlier this season—a 17-10 SU win at Sea Gull Stadium—the win on Saturday meant more.
“We have been waiting a whole year for this moment,” senior attacker Nate Blondino said. “It’s good to get the CAC Championship back. I feel like we earned this; we played great today and it showed.”
That redemption turned out to be a 15-5 win on Saturday to give Salisbury its twentieth CAC Championship.
“We’re honored to win the conference today,” SU head coach Jim Berkman said. “[This game] was something we had pinpointed on the schedule. It is a good day to be a Gull.”
On a sunny and humid Saturday afternoon, the Sea Gulls (17-1) exploded out of the gate, scoring five goals in the first quarter.
Blondino kicked off the scoring just over two minutes in with an over-the-shoulder shot just outside the crease. Three-and-a-half minutes later, a diving shot by senior attacker Carson Kalama struck the post, but was quickly corralled by senior attacker Kevin McDermott. McDermott found a wide open cage to give SU a 2-0 lead.
— Salisbury Athletics (@suseagulls) April 29, 2017
After a man-up goal from senior attacker Adam Huber pushed the lead to three, a pretty display of passing found senior attacker Nick Garbarino for an open score.
With less than a minute to go in the first quarter, a scrum for the ball ensued with junior midfielder Garrett Reynolds coming out on top and finding Blondino for an open shot. Blondino buried it in the back of the cage to give the Sea Gulls a 5-0 lead.
Blondino finished the game with a team-high eight points. The senior’s 105 points in the year are the most from a Salisbury player since Matt Cannone’s 130 point season in 2012.
“Playing [York] two weeks ago really helped,” Blondino said. “We were expecting them to throw a lot of different stuff at us, which they did. We prepared all week for everything we could see and I thought we executed great today.”
Garbarino continued the scoring in the second quarter, adding three of the team’s six second-quarter goals. His six goals led the team and are his second-most in a game this season.
“I thought we came out firing on all cylinders,” Garbarino said. “It was great to get the win in front of our fans. It’s a great feeling.”
The Sea Gulls held a commanding 11-1 lead at halftime and outshot the Spartans 28 to 11. The Salisbury offense spread the ball around, assisting on seven of the 11 goals.
“We showed the effort in that first half that this was really important today,” coach Berkman said. “We came out of that gate and those boys were ready to play. This is just a stepping stone to a bigger thing that our program has been accustomed to.”
Not to be outshined by the offense, the SU defense shut down a York offense that averaged over 14 goals per game coming into the contest. The first Spartan goal came with 33 seconds left in the first half.
The Sea Gulls controlled all facets of the game. Salisbury successfully converted all 23 clear attempts, won 16 of 23 faceoff attempts and won the groundball battle 41 to 21.
After missing the semifinal game against Mary Washington, senior defender Aaron Leeds led the team with five ground balls and forced three turnovers.
“The defense was on the same page,” Leeds said. “We were really prepared and it showed. We didn’t want to repeat history.”
Saturday saw both Salisbury lacrosse teams sweep the CACs. The women’s lacrosse team scored five unanswered goals to defeat York 7-2 on the road to win the program’s seventeenth conference championship.
With the victory, the Sea Gulls will more than likely hold a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. After getting retribution for last season’s loss, there is still unfinished business.
“Our main [focus] is the National Championship,” Blondino said. “I feel like we’re getting better every day.”