Salisbury began the season on Sunday with a 14-3 rout of Greensboro without Luke Phipps, but the senior attackman will return for Saturday’s home opener against Lynchburg.
Phipps, who recorded nine goals and two assists as the fourth attackman last spring, slightly sprained his knee in the preseason, and coach Jim Berkman said the team opted to rest him rather than risk further injury. Phipps is expected to start on attack with senior Rhett DePol and sophomore Brady Dashiell.
“[H]e has practiced all week, so he’ll be good to go,” Berkman said Friday morning. “He’s the best shooter on our team – accuracy and velocity.”
Phipps’ return could be huge for the Sea Gulls (1-0), who are ranked No. 5 in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association’s preseason poll, against the No. 11 Hornets, who return all three starting defensemen and junior goalkeeper Adam Davey to a unit that surrendered 7.5 goals per game last spring.
Last year, Lynchburg opened the season with a 13-12 decision over Salisbury. The loss was one of six in 23 games that put the 10-time national champion Sea Gulls on the precipice of being left out of the NCAA tournament.
Berkman acknowledged that the setback has resonated with the players and coaches.
“We obviously have that in the back of our minds,” he said. “We gave a game away that we thought we had put ourselves in a position to win. The score was 12-12 and we had a guy in front of the cage for a one-on-one, which he dropped. It would have put us up 13-12 with about 25 seconds left in the game. So obviously, we’d really like to get them this time around.”
One category that could play a role in the final score on Saturday is turnovers, which plagued Salisbury against Greensboro. The team committed 24 turnovers, which was the most since 28 giveaways in a 7-6 double overtime loss to Washington and Lee on Feb. 20, 2013.
Berkman said the Sea Gulls can’t afford to be that generous with the ball against the Hornets.
“We’ve done a pretty good job in the fall and preseason of not turning the ball over and getting a good shot against our defense, which I think is going to be as good as any defense we play against all season,” he said. “Hopefully, it was just some first-game jitters with some kids trying to make the plays that they should let somebody else make. Seeing the film, if they would have made just one easy pass, the pass would have led to a real easy goal. But three or four times, we tried to skip the ball and boom, it got picked off and led to a very easy transition goal.”