By ZACH GILLELAND
No other coach in NCAA lacrosse has accomplished it.
With the victory Wednesday, SU head coach Jim Berkman recorded his 500th career win at Salisbury, becoming the first coach in NCAA lacrosse history to win 500 games with a single program. The Sea Gulls (20-1) advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament after defeating Cabrini University 17-5.
“I’m very fortunate to have been able to coach all these great players that have been at Salisbury over the years that formed Sea Gull nation,” Berkman said. “I haven’t scored any goals, assists or [ground balls] but I feel very fortunate that I’m able to coach at a great institution that allows us to attract great student athletes.”
— Salisbury Athletics (@suseagulls) May 18, 2017
Facing a Cavalier team (17-4) that handed the Sea Gulls their only loss of the season, Wednesday’s matchup proved to be a different story.
A defense that at one time gave up four unanswered goals in the fourth quarter during April’s contest, the Salisbury defense swarmed the Cabrini attack, allowing only five goals throughout the game. The maroon and gold forced 21 turnovers and won the ground ball battle 40-27.
“When we went out there from the first walkout, we were all on the same page,” junior defender Will Nowesnick said. “We talked, slid when we needed to, got the ground ball and caused turnovers. We didn’t worry about the personal things, we worried about the team.”
The Sea Gulls continued to find their rhythm on offense, tallying 17 goals off 47 shots. Salisbury has scored 15 or more goals in its past five games and its 17.67 goals-per-game average is good for fourth in the nation.
Senior attacker Nick Garbarino kicked off the scoring less than three minutes into the game. Senior offensive middie Brendan Bromwell shook off two defenders, finding an open Garbarino in front of the crease for an open look.
A minute later senior attacker Adam Huber bounced a shot between the legs of Cabrini freshman goalie Matt Nestler to give SU a 2-0 lead.
Following a Cavalier goal from sophomore attacker Jordan Krug, SU attacker Carson Kalama found the back of the cage after a pretty display of passing found the senior. Kalama scored a game-high six goals off of 10 shots.
A team that is reliant on spreading the ball around, the Sea Gulls assisted on 13 of their 17 goals.
“We were getting wide open [shots] in the crease,” Kalama said. “We don’t want the 12-yard shot, we want the [shot] in the crease. I got a few of those thanks to the midfielders.”
The offense kept the pressure on the Cabrini defense throughout, scoring five goals each in the first three quarters. Salisbury showed its depth on offense as nine different players tallied a goal.
Senior attacker Nate Blondino led the offense with seven points. With 129 points on the season, the Leonardtown, Md. native is one point shy of the most points scored by an SU player since Matt Cannone’s 130 mark in 2012.
Although allowing 17 goals, Nestler became a bright spot for the Cavalier defense, saving 13 shots. The freshman, playing in his first NCAA Tournament, is among the young talent on a Cabrini team that will lose only five seniors.
“When I’m having a good game out there, it’s mostly because of [our defense],” Nestler said. “It was definitely a learning experience for me.”
With the victory, the Sea Gulls will face the Big Red of Denison University on Sunday. Both teams faced off in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinal a season ago, with Salisbury edging an 11-10 win in overtime.
“I’m very proud of our guys, they dominated all facets of the game and played pretty well,” Berkman said. “I think the dent we had in our armor going forward, we definitely made amends tonight.”