After a NCAA-record 351 career wins and eight national championships, many of the victories don’t stand out to Salisbury coach Jim Berkman.
That’s why he wasn’t about to declare the No. 4 Sea Gulls’ 12-11 triumph over reigning national titlist and No. 5 SUNY-Cortland Wednesday as a turning point for a program that didn’t reach the NCAA Tournament final last May for the first time since 2002.
"I don’t think it’s a ‘statement’ win," Berkman said Thursday morning. "They’re a good team, and we’re a good team. We happened to have one more goal than they did yesterday. But I definitely think it shows that Salisbury is a pretty good team."
Perhaps the biggest benefit from the contest was the exposure it gave to Salisbury’s younger players. Freshman defenseman Brett Baer has started two of the team’s five games, and second midfield line of junior Kyle Piper, sophomore Tim Lum and freshman Alex Nieves got a chance to taste the intensity of a significant contest.
"Any time you beat a top-5 team – not matter what point of the season – it’s good for your confidence," Berkman said. "We’re playing some younger guys right now that never played in those games. … They’ve never really played in big, big games, and to be able to play with that level of talent and in that environment, that’s a great experience. For that, it definitely helps you down the road."
*Sophomore midfielder Sam Bradman paced the Sea Gulls with four goals and two assists, including a helper on junior midfielder Shawn Zordani’s eventual game-winning goal with 3:13 left in regulation. Bradman, who leads the team in points (26), has already scored two more goals than the 17 he recorded last season. "Sam had a great game yesterday," Berkman said. "He’s been very consistent through our first five games. He had some outstanding goals yesterday and a couple great feeds, including a big feed on the game-winning goal. Outstanding player. We think he’s one of the best players in the country."
*A factor in Salisbury’s win was improved play in the second half. In that frame, the Sea Gulls collected 23 groundballs to Cortland’s 15 and took 10 more shots, which led to Salisbury outscoring the Red Dragons, 5-3. "The second half, I kind of challenged them on the groundball thing because we had gotten beat pretty bad on groundballs in the first half," Berkman said. "We played a little bit harder in the third quarter and got a couple critical groundballs and a few more possessions. We still didn’t win the face-off battle [the Sea Gulls lost 17-of-26 face-offs], but we made it a little bit more even. And then we got a few loose balls in the midfield that led to some goals."