Sea Gulls’ quest for back-to-back NCAA Championships begins with Misericordia

By ZACH GILLELAND

Staff Writer

@_zachariahg

What: No. 1 Salisbury University men’s lacrosse hosts Misericordia University

When: Wednesday, 4 p.m.

Where: Sea Gull Stadium

How to watch: Sea Gull Sports Network

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Freshman defender Drew Borkowicz (No. 35) and junior defender Kyle Lawlor (No. 47) look on during the CAC Championship Game with SU head coach Jim Berkman in the background. Amy Wojtowciz photo

Salisbury University men’s lacrosse team’s road to its second-straight NCAA Championship starts in Foxboro, Mass. Following Bates’ loss to Middlebury in the semifinal of their conference tournament, the Sea Gulls (17-1, 8-0 CAC) emerge as the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Salisbury will host the winners of the MAC (Middle Atlantic Conference) Freedom Conference, the Misericordia Cougars. The Cougars (13-3, 7-0) come into Wednesday’s contest fresh off a 9-7 win over Lasell College on Tuesday.

Salisbury: The Sea Gulls received a bye in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, playing host to a neutral site game. Since its 11-10 loss at the sticks of then No. 14 Cabrini, Salisbury has won its last two games by an average of 12.5 goals—including a 15-5 win over York (Pa.) in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Championship game.

Misericordia: Making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament under MAC Freedom Coach of the Year Jim Ricardo, the Cougars defeated Lasell 9-7 on Tuesday. Leading 6-2 at halftime, Misericordia staved off a five-goal Laser rally to win its first NCAA Tournament game.

Salisbury Offense: With the third-ranked offense in the nation in goals scored, the Sea Gulls possess a potent offensive attack highlighted by senior attacker Nate Blondino, whose 105 points are the most by a Salisbury player since Matt Cannone’s 130 in 2012. Alongside fellow seniors Nick Garbarino, Carson Kalama, Brendan Bromwell and Adam Huber, Salisbury averages almost 17 goals per game.

Depth is the strong point for the maroon and gold. SU boasts nine players that have scored 15 or more goals—including two of the CAC’s top-five goal scorers.

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The road to the Final Four for Salisbury men’s lacrosse. Chris Mackowiak image via NCAA.com

Misericordia Defense: Facing a man-down situation after sophomore goalkeeper Matthew Beck committed a slashing penalty, the Cougars turned to backup Antonio Whyte. With four minutes left and a two-goal lead, Whyte made two key saves to allow Misericordia to advance.

Although Whyte became the hero on Tuesday, Beck is undefeated this season, boasting a 12-0 record in games he starts. Misericordia’s 7.78 goals-against average (GAA) is good for second in the MAC Freedom.

Misericordia Offense: Averaging 12.69 goals per game, the Cougars display the top offense in the MAC Freedom. With a balanced scoring attack with many different options, Misericordia has five players that have scored 23 or more goals.

Junior attacker Chris Fleming leads the team with 56 points. Fleming led the way for the Cougars on Tuesday, contributing four points in the win over Lasell.

Salisbury Defense: Also holding one of the country’s top defensive units, the Sea Gulls are eighth in Division III with a GAA of 6.44. A trio of defenders—Aaron Leeds, Will Nowesnick and Kyle Tucker—were named to All-CAC First Team.

With a defense that has allowed double digit goals only three times this season, Salisbury averages 41 ground balls per game and forces 11.7 turnovers per game.

At the ‘X’: Both teams possess multiple options at the ‘X’. The Sea Gulls hold the edge on face-offs, holding a 58.6 success rate compared to Misericordia’s 51.7 average.

Misericordia Player to Watch: Sophomore goalkeeper Matthew Beck

Beck could have a long day Wednesday facing the nation’s third-best goal-scoring team. Beck has held his on this season, sporting a 57.8 save percentage and 7.20 GAA.

Salisbury Player to Watch: Senior defender Aaron Leeds

Suspended for Salisbury’s CAC semifinal game against Mary Washington, Leeds returned against York, helping the defense surrender only five goals. The senior is third on the team with 51 ground balls and has caused 27 turnovers on the season.

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