SALISBURY — Trailing, 3-1, after one quarter and in sore need of an energy boost, the Salisbury men's lacrosse team got some help from an unlikely source: its opponent.
Taking advantage of an illegal stick penalty on Washington College junior Michael Trapp, the Sea Gulls scored one goal during the subsequent 3-minute extra-man opportunity and added another shortly after the penalty ended.
More importantly, Salisbury woke itself from an early slumber and rediscovered its game for a 13-8 win over the visiting Shoremen in a Division III NCAA tournament semifinal before an announced 2,375 at Sea Gull Stadium on Sunday night.
The win vaulted the Sea Gulls (21-1) into a title-game matchup against Tufts on Sunday at 1 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium. The Jumbos (20-2) stunned previously undefeated Rochester Institute of Technology (20-1), 21-11, in the other national semifinal earlier Sunday.
It will be a rematch of tournament finals in 2010 and 2011. Tufts won in 2010, while Salisbury won in 2011.
The Sea Gulls nearly missed the chance to make the trip to Baltimore as Washington College scored the game's first three goals — two from senior midfielder Hunter Nowicki (Franklin) and one from senior midfielder Kodie Englehart.
Salisbury got on the scoreboard when senior attackman Rhett DePol scored with a curl around the left post with 8 seconds left in the first quarter. During the brief intermission before the second period, a routine stick check by officials determined that Trapp, who had won three of four faceoffs in the opening quarter, had used an illegal stick.
Shoremen coach Jeff Shirk questioned checking a faceoff specialist's stick seconds after he took a draw, but he did not dispute the ruling.
"Bottom line is, we had a great officiating crew tonight who did a great job, and our stick was illegal," he said. "We have the next-play mentality. So we just talked to the guys, didn't get down, didn't get on Trapper."
Salisbury capitalized on the opportunity, getting a goal from junior midfielder Sean Fitzgerald (Arundel) just 44 seconds into the second quarter. And 4 seconds after Trapp's penalty expired, DePol dodged from the left wing, got under a defenseman's stick check, and scored from the left side of the crease with 11:56 remaining.
"It was just one goal," Sea Gulls coach Jim Berkman said of Fitzgerald's score. "But it was a good goal because it kind of broke their momentum."
Nowicki's low shot from the right point helped Washington College regain a 4-3 lead with 9:45 left in the quarter, but the Sea Gulls started a 6-1 run spanning the second and third quarters to put the game away.
DePol said despite trailing, 3-0, for the first time this season, Salisbury didn't panic.
"We don't get flustered if we go down," he said. "It happens. That's the game of lacrosse. People go on runs. You can't get flustered. You have to stick to the game plan and do what you practiced for the whole week."
Fitzgerald led Salisbury with four points (three goals, one assist). Junior attackman Mike Kane scored three times, and DePol added two goals and one assist. Senior goalkeeper Alex Taylor (Glenelg) finished with eight saves.