The Salisbury men's lacrosse team got national championship No. 10. But it wasn't easy.
SUNY-Cortland nearly matched the Sea Gulls goal-for-goal for the first three quarters before Salisbury awoke in the fourth quarter to secure a 14-10 victory in the NCAA tournament final at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
An announced crowd of 17,005 watched the Sea Gulls successfully defend the national title they won last year, improve to 23-0, and become the seventh squad under coach Jim Berkman to complete a perfect season. Salisbury has won 30 straight contests and hasn't lost since April 16, 2011, when it fell, 16-12, to Stevenson.
Senior midfielder Sam Bradman, who was named the Most Outstanding Player for the second consecutive season, led all scorers with seven points on six goals and one assist, and senior attackman Matt Cannone chipped in two goals and three assists.
The Sea Gulls joined Hobart as the only Division III programs in NCAA history to collect at least 10 national championships, but they weren't able to breathe easy until the final 15-minute period.
Salisbury trailed just once, but there were four ties and the largest lead through the first three quarters was two.
Still, Cannone said the players didn't fret.
"I don't believe we got antsy or nervous or anything like that, just because we've been here before," he said. "We've been in tight games. We came back against Stevenson [on April 14]. All throughout our four years here, we've been in battles, and we just know that we've got to keep our focus. That's what's really great about our team and the leaders that we have."
Bradman proved to be one of those leaders, scoring three goals through the first 16:08 of the game, adding two more in the third quarter, and scoring the last one of the contest.
It reminded viewers of Bradman's seven-goal, one-assist display in the team's 19-7 rout of Tufts in last year's title game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
"I love big competition and big games ever since high school," he said. "Just getting into the big games, my intensity goes up."
The Sea Gulls began to flex their muscles in the last frame when Cannone took a pass from senior attackman Kyle Quist and whipped the ball from the right wing past junior goalkeeper Mike Kaminski on an extra-man opportunity just 97 seconds into the period. That score gave Salisbury an 11-9 lead.
After sophomore attackman Cody Consul scored on a diagonal dodge from behind the net to halve the deficit with 12:46 remaining, the Sea Gulls ended the game with three unanswered goals.
Senior attackman Lantz Carter carried the ball down the right alley before flipping the ball to junior midfielder Ryan Clarke at the right wing, and he slung it inside the left post with 9:05 left.
Forty-two seconds later, Carter dodged down the left alley, turned back to his right, and beat Kaminski from the top of the slot. Bradman capped the scoring with his final goal of the contest when he took advantage of the Red Dragons trying to double-team Salisbury's ball carriers and beat Cortland's defenders to the open net with 2:57 remaining in regulation.
Senior attackman Mike Tota paced the Red Dragons (21-1) with three goals and one assist. Senior attackman Greg Wright and sophomore midfielder Joe Slavik each scored twice, but coach Steve Beville said the defense had few answers for Bradman, who scored half of his goals on pick-and-roll plays.
"He is very, very good with the pick-and-roll game," Beville said. "So even when he's shut off, it gives you some problems. Our philosophy is to step out and jam the ball carrier. We left the roll open a couple times."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun