Seven senior starters are gone -- including the attack unit that racked up 163 goals -- but coach Jim Berkman thinks that Salisbury State will remain very much in the Division III lacrosse picture next year.
In their first NCAA championship Saturday, the Sea Gulls failed to accomplish something no one else has been able to do either. Hobart won its 12th straight title with a 12-11 victory at Salisbury, and Berkman knew right away what the Sea Gulls need to catch the Statesmen.
"After watching the tape of the game, the difference was team speed," said Berkman, whose three-year record is 35-10. "Hobart was quicker on ground balls, and quicker on the ride. They rode us to death."
A potent transition game propelled Salisbury State to wins in its first 15 games, but Hobart slowed the Sea Gulls' clears and held them to their lowest goal total since a season-opening 9-8 win over Roanoke. The Sea Gulls were fitting in some new parts then, and junior college transfers Chris Boyle, Jeff Chenowith and Art Morley helped bring Salisbury State closer to Hobart.
"The junior college transfers were the difference between us being a good team and a great one," Berkman said. "The junior colleges are filled with fine players who can help us, and we'll continue to recruit there.
"We also have some pretty good high school kids coming in, and I think we have a lot of talent coming back, especially at midfield and defense. We could only dress 28 players for the final, and some kids who are coming on didn't get to suit up. I like the depth we'll have back."
Dod Poe, a freshman from Loyola High, will be one of the new faces charged with replacing the stellar attack of Rick Berkman, Rusty Pritzlaff and Eric Ungleich, who had 61 (an all-time Salisbury season record), 53 and 49 goals, respectively.
"The three of them didn't have Division I speed, but they definitely have Division I sticks," Jim Berkman said.
While Berkman -- the uncle coach not the nephew scorer -- would like to mimic Hobart's speed, he isn't going to copy their schedule. Statesmen coach B.J. O'Hara says that the practice of playing four or five Division I opponents each year is one reason Hobart, which finished 8-6 overall, has never lost in the Division III tournament.
"That's not the philosophy of our school," Berkman said. "We wouldn't look down on the idea of playing one or two games against Division I teams, but they're awfully hard to get to begin with."