Prior to Sunday night’s NCAA tournament semifinal against No. 4 Stevenson, No. 12 and reigning national champion Salisbury had advanced to nine of 10 Final Fours and won every single one to advance to the title game.
That did not happen against the Mustangs, who registered a convincing 12-6 victory over the Sea Gulls at Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills. While the Stevenson players and coaches celebrated with their fans, Salisbury (17-6) huddled in front of the net on its side of the field and got some words of wisdom from coach Jim Berkman.
“I said the same thing to them that I said in 2006 when we lost in the national championship game in overtime,” he said, alluding to a 13-12 setback to SUNY-Cortland. “I said, ‘Hey, look at the other side right now. It’s not a very good feeling, is it? Let’s learn a little bit about this moment and let’s use it as motivation to get us out the door a little bit more than maybe we have in past years. When we get this moment again next year, hopefully we’re a little bit better prepared and we can seize that moment.’”
Next Sunday’s tournament final between the Mustangs (21-2) and Rochester Institute of Technology (19-2) will mark only the second title contest since 2003 that the Sea Gulls will not take part in the title game. That absence will weigh heavily on the players, according to junior goalkeeper Alex Taylor.
“This is going to stick with us,” the Woodbine native and Glenelg graduate said. “Going into last year, it didn’t really do much because we were on top of the world. This feeling hurts bad. We’re going to come back and we’re going to work hard during the offseason and hopefully, we can put something special together next year.”