Salisbury ranks 11th in Division III in defense, having surrendered just 5.9 goals per game thus far. And the unit has thrived even after the insertion of freshman Will Nowesnick as a starting close defenseman.
Nowesnick has started in the No. 10 Sea Gulls' last five games and has 12 ground balls and 11 caused turnovers. Despite Nowesnick's limited experience, coach Jim Berkman said the 6-foot-5, 200-pound defender is fitting in well with senior starters in Knute Kraus and Austin Kemp.
"He's been hovering in the fourth spot all season," Berkman said Monday. "He also played some long-stick, too. He was the heir apparent to taking Knute's spot anyway. He's just getting some valuable playing time early. When you see the kid play, he's impressive because he's got a great stick, he really gets it off the ground, and he's got good speed. He's an imposing figure at 6-5 out there."
Berkman said Nowesnick was especially crucial for Salisbury (11-4 overall and 7-0 in the Capital Athletic Conference) in Saturday's 8-7 overtime win at Frostburg State (14-1, 5-1). Nowesnick drew the primary assignment of marking Bobcats junior attackman Nick Stailey, who did not take a shot and did not have an assist.
"He's really seized the moment down there," Berkman said. "I think he's getting better every day. He's getting more game experience and making better decisions in the game. He's played awful well."
The door opened for Nowesnick because of the departure of 6-2, 210-pound defenseman Danny Sherr.
Sherr, a junior who has recorded seven ground balls and nine caused turnovers in 10 starts, opted to give up the sport due to chronic pain caused by foot and knee problems. Sherr sat out much of the 2013 season and all of the 2014 campaign after undergoing foot surgery.
"Danny's had a multitude of injuries over time, and his body has taken a lot of wear and tear," Berkman said. "He's been so frustrated with the aches and pains on a daily basis that he's decided that he's going to move on. It was just too much every day to go out there, and his knees were really bothering him, his feet were really bothering him, and it was a constant mental battle. When you're hurt all the time and it's all you can think about, it really can do a number on you. So he's decided that it's not worth the wear and tear on his body."