For the third time in four years and fifth in seven, Stevenson and Salisbury will meet in the NCAA Division III tournament. The No. 7 Mustangs (16-4) will host the No. 8 Sea Gulls (16-4) in a second-round game at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The teams have faced off every year since 2007 and three times in 2009, 2010 and 2012, so there's a heightened sense of familiarity between the two sides.
"We know each other so well," Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene said Thursday. "So there are going to be no surprises. We know what they're going to do, and they have a really good idea of what we're going to do. It really comes down to who's going to make more tough plays. When you're put in a position to make a play, you've got to make it. It's going to be hard to score goals. So you're going to have to make a really good play in order to score. Both goalies are playing well. We both have two good faceoff guys, two good defenses, a good set of midfielders. It's going to be a tough game. I think we know each other so well that it's going to be interesting. … It's going to be a close game."
Added Salisbury coach Jim Berkman: "We definitely know who their guys are, and they know who we are. They know how we play, and we know how they play. Now you've got to go out there and get it done."
The rivals have split four meetings in the NCAA tournament. The Sea Gulls advanced to the title game in 2010 and 2012 after bouncing the Mustangs in the national semifinals. Stevenson defeated Salisbury in the quarterfinals in 2009 and the semifinals in 2013. Curiously, the team that won in the NCAA tournament dropped the regular-season meeting. That would appear to bode well for the Sea Gulls, who lost in overtime, 9-8, March 25.
"I don't think the earlier loss has anything to do with it," Berkman said. "We know what's at stake. It's moving forward to winning a national championship and getting to the quarterfinals. That's our motivation."
Cantabene agreed, arguing that the rivalry is what drives players and coaches on both teams.
"We're always motivated to play each other," he said. "That's why kids want to go to Salisbury and want to come to Stevenson. They want to play in this game. It's a huge game and a huge rivalry, and I don't think whoever won the first game is going to be more motivated in the second game. I don't think the records really matter. It's just two good teams going out to compete against each other, and you know both teams are going to be ready to go."