Sophomore Will Nowesnick entered the season as Salisbury's top defenseman. Turns out he has company in Kyle Tucker.
Also a sophomore, Tucker leads the No. 2 Sea Gulls (9-0) in caused turnovers with 19 and ranks sixth in ground balls with 22. In a 13-12 overtime win against No. 11 Ohio Wesleyan on March 6, senior attackman Marcus Dietz notched one goal and one assist in the first half, but was shut out by Kyle Tucker for the remainder of the game.
Three days later, Tucker gave up just one assist to senior attackman Pat Candon in a 13-6 rout at No. 20 Stevenson on March 9, and he is expected to shadow senior attackman Tyler McWilliams (16 goals and 14 assists) when No. 17 Roanoke (7-2) visits Sea Gull Stadium in Salisbury on Friday at 4 p.m.
"Kyle, he's just a really good defenseman because he's so athletic," coach Jim Berkman said. "He's really fast. Him, [junior long-stick midfielder Andrew] Ternahan and [senior short-stick defensive midfielder] Preston Dabbs are three of the fastest guys on the team, and you usually don't see that kind of speed on a close defenseman. But he's gotten a lot stronger. He just doesn't get beat. He can take the ball away a little, too, and he can get it off the ground. And when he gets it off the ground, he can run away from people and creates separation quickly. So the clearing game gets a little easier when he gets the ground ball because attackmen are not running him down. He's running away from them. He's got a special skill set."
Tucker finished last year as the No. 3 long-stick midfielder behind Ternahan and Marty Wallace. But with defensemen Knute Kraus and Austin Kemp graduating, Tucker asked the coaches about a position change.
Tucker transformed his 5-foot-11, 168-pound frame during the offseason, and Berkman said he is almost two inches taller and is 25 pounds heavier. Berkman conceded that Tucker's development has exceeded even his expectations.
"I think it's way ahead of where I thought it would be," Berkman said. "He was a good high school athlete, a good high school basketball player, and there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to be good based on what he did last year as a long-stick. He's getting better every day at being a better defenseman and is probably further ahead when I look at some of the jobs he's done against some of the best kids we've played against. He's held them in check, and he's done that every game."