The annual tilt between No. 2 Stevenson and No. 3 Salisbury lived up to its billing Saturday, but Luke Phipps gave the Sea Gulls the final say.
The senior attackman had a game-high six points, including two goals and one assist in the pivotal fourth quarter, to lift Salisbury to an 11-9 decision over the reigning Division III national champion Mustangs before an announced 1,927 at Mustang Stadium on Saturday night.
With the win, their sixth straight, the Sea Gulls improved to 16-1 and reaffirmed their status as the top team in the South Region.
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"I don't know if there are statement games," said coach Jim Berkman, who has guided the program to 10 NCAA titles. "I think it means we're for real though. [We're] 16-1, and we're not a bad team. That's got to give our kids a lot of confidence because we played well in a hostile environment."
Salisbury can thank Phipps for the victory. After posting three assists in the first quarter before going silent over the second and third periods, the John Carroll graduate broke an 8-8 tie with an extra-man goal with 13:23 left in the game.
The Sea Gulls got another man-up goal when senior midfielder Donovan Lange (Northeast-AA) converted a pass from Phipps with 7:12 remaining. They then turned another Stevenson penalty into a score when Lange returned the favor, finding Phipps at the right wing for a goal with 6:52 left.
"I like to shoot, but I wasn't going to force anything or take bad shots, because that just gives away the ball," said Phipps, who ranks second on the team in points with 51. "They held us down a couple times there in the second and third. I just took advantage of the opportunities I got in the fourth and was able to put a couple in the goal."
The Mustangs cut into the lead when junior midfielder Colin Dabney converted a pass from junior midfielder Tony Rossi (Calvert Hall) with 3:41 remaining in regulation. But Salisbury senior goalkeeper Alex Taylor (Glenelg) made three of his game-high 13 saves to preserve the lead.
Taylor and the rest of the defense held Stevenson to more than five goals below its season average of 14.1 and 17 shots below its season average of 56. Only Dabney and sophomore attackman Stephen Banick scored more than one goal for the Mustangs, whose 39 attempts were a season low.
"This whole week, we've been working on sliding," Taylor said. "Our defense is so good that we're not used to getting beat, and going into this week, we've been working on our slide packages. We're an athletic defense, and everyone can guard anyone out there. So we focused on sliding a little bit and the defense played great in front of me."
The game was a penalty-filled affair for both sides. Stevenson was flagged for 16 penalties totaling 13 minutes, while the Sea Gulls had 13 violations combining for 13 minutes.
Salisbury scored five time on 13 man-up opportunities, while the Mustangs went 4-for-8 on extra-man chances.
The victory, however, came at a cost for Salisbury, which lost sophomore midfielder Brady Dashiell to a strained right hamstring in the second quarter. Dashiell, the younger brother of the Mustangs' Chris Dashiell, was on crutches at game's end, and Berkman was uncertain of his status for the near future.
"We've got a week off before the next game [in the Capital Athletic Conference tournament semifinal], but we have two weeks and a half before we get to the playoffs," Berkman said. "Brady would be another nice option on that second midfield at this point."
Chris Dashiell and Rossi each recorded three assists for Stevenson (13-2) in its first loss since a 15-14 overtime defeat to No. 1 Rochester Institute of Technology on Feb. 22, a span of 13 games. The Mustangs also had a 20-game winning streak at Mustang Stadium come to an abrupt end.
"I think we're all right," coach Paul Cantabene said. "I think we're heading in the right direction, and I think we're no different than when we lost to Roanoke a year ago. I think we're in the same position, and the guys will understand where we're going from. I think we're motivated and they're a good bunch of kids."