Some deficits are not as imposing as others.
The Salisbury men’s lacrosse team proved that a few times this spring. There was the rally from a 9-2 hole in the second quarter that ended with the Sea Gulls edging Christopher Newport, 12-11, in the third round of the NCAA Division III tournament May 12.
There was the comeback from a 5-1 deficit in the second quarter that resulted in an 11-8 victory over York for the Capital Athletic Conference tournament final May 5.
And then there was the push from a 3-1 hole in the second quarter to Gettysburg — an opponent that had nipped Salisbury, 11-10, in overtime on Feb. 24 — that culminated in an 8-7 decision in the national semifinals May 20.
So when the No. 3 Sea Gulls found themselves in deficits of 4-0 in the first quarter and 8-4 in the fourth against No. 9 Wesleyan in Sunday’s NCAA championship final, there was a sense of been-here, done-that for the players and coaches. Although the comeback effort fell short in an 8-6 loss to the Cardinals, the players believed they could get on the positive side of the ledger.
“A lot of points this year, we’ve been kind of down, just seeing a lot of adversity,” junior midfielder Zach Pompea said. “I just think this group has just been through so much adversity that we get in moments like that, and we don’t really panic at all. It’s just one goal at a time, and we know we can come back. It’s just one possession at a time, and that was pretty much the thought process throughout the game. We just missed a few opportunities and couldn’t get everything rolling the way we wanted to.”
Salisbury coach Jim Berkman said he never thought the early four-goal deficit was too much for the team.
“I knew we just had to grind and take it one possession at a time,” he said. “We did a great job defensively after those first three minutes to grind back and give us an opportunity and really hold a high-powered offense very low for a long period of time. And then they got a couple goals in the third quarter on balls that we missed that we should have probably had on the faceoff that allowed maybe the difference in the game.”
The Sea Gulls had opportunities to send the game into overtime after drawing within two at 8-6. But they could not punch in a goal during a 30-second extra-man chance with 2:05 remaining and launched nine shots in a 100-second stretch, but seven missed the cage and two were blocked by Wesleyan sophomore goalkeeper Otto Bohan.
Even so, senior defenseman and two-time Division III Defensive Player of the Year Kyle Tucker said he thought overtime was on the horizon.
“The entire time, in the back of my head, I believed in them from five minutes left to two seconds left,” he said. “I believed in them, and I was cheering them on the entire time until the last bell rung. And then there’s just nothing I can do besides tell them how great of a job they did.”