Salisbury owns a 27-20 lead in this series with Washington College and has taken 13 of the last 14 meetings. The Sea Gulls are 12-0 at home this spring and seeking their second perfect campaign at home in the last three years, while the Shoremen are 7-1 on the road.
Washington College (18-1) has strung together 13 consecutive wins since falling to Salisbury, 12-7, on March 19 and has tied a single-season record for victories. By stunning 2013 national champion Stevenson, 12-11, on Wednesday night, the team secured its first Final Four berth since 2004. Senior attackman Jimmy Cusick’s 46 goals are the most by a Shoreman since Chris Read scored 51 in 2008.
Salisbury (20-1) has won 10 straight games since a bewildering 8-7 overtime loss to Christopher Newport on April 2. The team advanced to its 10th national semifinal in the last 11 years after disposing of Denison, 15-5, on Wednesday night. Senior goalkeeper Alex Taylor ranks seventh in Division III in goals-against average (6.49) and 46th in save percentage (.585).
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Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Sea Gull Stadium in Salisbury on Sunday at 7 p.m.
1) Forcing Washington College into six-on-six offense. The Shoremen have been lethal in the NCAA tournament on extra-man opportunities, converting 76.9 percent (10 of 13) of those chances in three postseason games. Washington College has also demonstrated that it can score in transition and off of faceoff wins by junior Michael Trapp, and coach Jim Berkman said Salisbury has to influence the Shoremen into settling for six-on-six sets.
“We’ve got to stop transition in regular situations,” he said. “And we can’t have Trapp blowing up off the faceoff and going 2-and-2 like he did against Gettysburg [on April 30]. So we’ve got to negate that kind of transition. And we’ve got to stay out of the box, which is another transition opportunity. Those are the three things that we had to do [Wednesday] night to beat Denison because they’re a similar type of team, and it’s going to be the same thing on Sunday.”
2) Solving Salisbury’s defense. The Sea Gulls’ run in the postseason has been defined by a defense that has been downright miserly as the unit surrendered just 11 goals in two NCAA tournament games. The defense held York to six goals below its season average of 12.0 in a 12-6 win in a second-round contest on Saturday and Denison to more than 11 goals below its season average of 16.6 in that rout in a quarterfinal on Wednesday night. Those numbers are scary, but Washington College coach Jeff Shirk said the offense won’t make any wholesale changes to its philosophy.
“We’re not going to change who we are in the next three days, but we’ll make a couple of adjustments here and there,” he said. “I think we’ll go back and look at the regular-season tape and kind of see what they did well against us and where we struggled a little bit and then of course study more recent tape to see what they’re doing particularly well or what possible holes they might have that we can take advantage of.”
3) Capitalizing on faceoffs. Washington College junior Michael Trapp entered Wednesday night’s contest ranked seventh in the country at 69.6 percent (240 of 345). But he won just 13.3 percent (2 of 15) against Stevenson senior Brent Hiken. Trapp, who won 73.9 percent (17 of 23) in the regular-season meeting with Salisbury, has been bothered by a pulled hamstring and will tangle with Sea Gulls senior Chris Biank, who missed the first meeting but has won 55.9 percent (152 of 272) this season.
“I’m sure he’ll be a little bit healthier and give it a go on Sunday,” Berkman said of Trapp. “I can’t imagine a hamstring is going to heal overnight, but Biank wasn’t in the mix against him last time. So hopefully, we’ll fare a little bit better than 17 of 23. Hopefully, that can become a draw.”