When Salisbury and SUNY-Cortland meet Sunday in the NCAA Division III men's lacrosse final at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., there might be no one on the field as emotional as Sam Bradman.
The senior midfielder is always excited when he steps onto the field for a game, but in recent years, he has been able to tone it down and save his energy for scoring goals and making plays.
But Bradman is still vulnerable to letting his emotions get the best of him. For instance, in last Sunday's 7-2 victory over Stevenson in the semifinal round, Bradman was flagged for a one-minute unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty after scoring a goal to give the Sea Gulls a 3-0 lead with 6:59 left in the third quarter.
While pointing out that he was incited by rough play after the goal, Bradman conceded that he has to rise above the fray.
"That was a selfish play," he said Wednesday. "There was a little cheap shot there, but I let my emotions get the best of me and I took a penalty for my team, which could have ended up leading a comeback if they would've scored on that man-up [situation]. So I've just [got] to learn from that. Cortland's going to try to get me going, but I've just got to harness my emotions. I know they're a potent offense, and I can't be getting those unsportsmanlike conducts and giving them the opportunity to come back and score."
Bradman's staying on the field — not in the penalty box — is critical for a Salisbury team seeing its 10th national championship. The Division III Outstanding Player of the Year and the Most Outstanding Player in last May's 19-7 thumping of Tufts in the NCAA title game, Bradman has the strength and speed to present a matchup problems for opponents.
Bradman ranks 12th in the country in goals per game (3.0), and he is second on the team in points (92).
That's why coach Jim Berkman said a composed Bradman is more crucial to the team's success than a fiery one.
"Believe me, we've talked about that more than one time, about playing the game and not getting all caught up in the hype and everything else that goes along with that because he doesn't do very well when he does that," Berkman said. "We'll be addressing that again this week. 'You don't need any super-motivating thing to play the game. You're a great player, and you need to play level-headed, and you need to control your emotions.'"
Bradman's 65 goals this season are a career high, and he is just one assist away from tying his career best of 28 set in 2010. Bradman said he understands his role as a playmaker for Salisbury's offense but also knows he can help his teammates even if opponents try to prevent him from touching the ball.
"When teams are shutting me off and I can't do those things, I'm just there as a decoy, really," Bradman said. "So I'll cut and draw the defenseman. If it's not my day and I don't have a goal or an assist, that's straight with me as long as we're getting the win and my teammates are scoring. I like to think of myself as a goal scorer, but I also have to sometimes play that role as a decoy."
Bradman and rest of the senior class have a chance to cap their careers with back-to-back national championships. They've had plenty of motivation from former Sea Gulls on the 2005 squad who return to campus occasionally to show off their rings from three consecutive titles.
"That would be unreal," Bradman said. "I've seen the teams that have gone back-to-back-to-back in the past, and they've shown me all three of their rings. As a sophomore, I got to the national championship, and then we won it last year. Going 2-1 would be unreal to me and sort of a dream come true."