For the past year the Salisbury men's lacrosse team has patiently waited for Sunday night's NCAA Division III tournament final with Tufts.
Senior defenseman Collin Tokosch clipped a two-page photo spread of the Jumbos hoisting the championship trophy after defeating the Sea Gulls, 9-6, a year ago and taped it to the wall of his weight room for daily inspiration.
Senior midfielder Shawn Zordani wakes up every morning to a picture of Tufts players celebrating next to his bed. And senior goalkeeper Johnny Rodriguez inscribed "May 30" — the date of last year's tournament final — on one cleat and "May 29, 2011" on the other.
"It's redemption," junior attackman Matt Cannone said minutes after Salisbury had punched its ticket to the title game with a 16-7 demolition of Roanoke in the national semifinals a week ago. "We're trying to get back to the show and beat Tufts. Honestly, I'm glad that they're there, too. We get to get after them one more time."
The Sea Gulls, who have captured eight NCAA crowns, are making their 10th trip to the tournament final in the past 13 years, but the loss to the Jumbos at M&T Bank Stadium last season still resonates with the Salisbury players.
From falling into a 6-1 hole after the first quarter to committing 25 turnovers — including 14 in the second half — the Sea Gulls have stewed about their showing against Tufts. They have maintained that the Salisbury team that showed up last year was not the one they were accustomed to seeing on the field.
"Once we saw that we had the rematch with Tufts, we've just got to prove that last year was a fluke," junior midfielder Sam Bradman said. "We played pretty bad last year, and we've got to show the nation that we're for real and that we shouldn't have played that bad and that we're back."
Many of the Sea Gulls can empathize with Tokosch, who used the photo he clipped to push himself to exhaustion
"I looked at that every single day when I lifted," he said. "It just made me lift and work that much harder. That extra last rep, that extra set, that extra thing you don't want to do, do it and it pays off. It really does."
The players' perspective differs from that of their coach, Jim Berkman, who dismissed the notion of revenge.
"We just want to get it done," he said. "At this point, you don't care who's there, what happened. As I tell our guys every year, you never know when you'll get this opportunity again. You may never get another opportunity. As a coach, you may never get back there, and as a player, you may never get back there. So you don't care who you're playing. You just want to make sure that when you walk out of that stadium, you've given your best effort, and you've played well because when opportunity knocks, you've got to answer the door because you never know when it's going to be there again."
While the Sea Gulls aren't shy about sharing their feelings about the rematch, Jumbos coach Mike Daly took the high road when asked about Sunday's opponent.
"We have so much respect for the Salisbury program and Coach Berkman," Daly said. "We got it done last year. They've been doing it for 25 years. They're the team. They're what everybody in Division III hopes to be, and just the respect that we have for Coach Berkman and his staff and all those players, it's a great challenge for us and a great opportunity. And we'll give them heck, we know that."
An earlier version of this article gave the wrong score for Salisbury's win over Roanoke last week. The Sun regrets the error.