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Division III men's lacrosse preview for Salisbury Sea Gulls

Division III men's lacrosse preview for Salisbury Sea Gulls

Here is the final installment of a series taking a look at each of the eight Division III programs in the state according to their order of finish from last season. Thursday's visit was with Stevenson. This is Salisbury's turn.

Overview: After a 2-3 start to begin 2015, the Sea Gulls righted the ship to capture the Capital Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament crowns. After defeating Roanoke and Stevenson in the first two rounds of the NCAA Division III tournament, the program was bounced from the quarterfinals by Lynchburg, which fell to Tufts in the championship final. Salisbury missed the title game for the second time in three years and has gone three seasons since winning it all in 2012. The team is ranked No. 5 in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association's Division III preseason poll.

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Reason for optimism: The Sea Gulls are deep in experience and numbers on offense.

Junior attackmen Carson Kalama (56 goals and 13 assists) and Nathan Blondino (23 G, 16 A) are back and have been joined by junior Brady Dashiell (26 G, 7 A in 2013), who has returned after sitting out last spring.

Seniors Thomas Cirillo (42 G, 20 A) and James Burton (29 G, 19 A) and junior Brendan Bromwell (8 G, 11 A) make up the starting midfield, and seniors Christian Ottenritter (12 G, 3 A) and Jake Rotman (9 G, 3 A) and sophomore Garrett Reynolds (7 G, 1 A) compose the second line. Coach Jim Berkman said the unit could be one of the program's strongest in recent memory depending on the development of the two midfield lines.

"It's a good, experienced offense," he said. "I don't think at this point there's a [Sam] Bradman out there or a [Kylor] Berkman out there [in the midfield]. But I think when you look from 1 to 6, this is one of our better groups. It might not have that one big, big star or a couple guys that are close, but when we talk about the sixth guy or how fast the second midfield is, this is definitely a good group of six midfielders."

Reason for pessimism: A long tradition at Salisbury, the defense might be hard-pressed to match or better the 5.8 goals per game the 2015 unit allowed, which ranked third in the country.

Sophomore Kyle Tucker (18 ground balls and 12 caused turnovers) and junior Aaron Leeds (9 GB, 5 CT) have joined sophomore Will Nowesnick (21 GB, 13 CT) as starting defensemen. The entire defensive midfield of junior long-stick midfielder Andrew Ternahan (80 GB, 17 CT) and senior short-stick defensive midfielders Preston Dabbs (20 GB, 25 CT) and Davis Anderson (66 GB, 21 CT) is back, but Berkman acknowledged that developing the defense has the coaches' attention.

"Our individual defense is good. It's the team part of the equation that a younger unit has to get," he said. "It's a work in progress."

Keep an eye on: For the second consecutive season, the Sea Gulls will feature a new face in the cage.

After Connor Anderson (4.90 goals-against average and a .627 save percentage) replaced Alex Taylor, junior Colin Reymann emerged from fall workouts as the leading candidate to start.

But Reymann broke a knuckle on his hand on the first day of practice in the preseason, and that paved the way for sophomore Anthony Stavrakis to start in Saturday's 12-7 win against Hampden-Sydney.

"Everybody's a little bit different," Berkman said. "Sometimes you don't know, especially in the cage, until the lights are on how good a kid really is. Also sometimes once a kid knows he's the guy, the sense of confidence, I really see that in Anthony. He knows he's the guy now. It's been just a different guy back there, and I've been very pleasantly surprised."

What he said: While the defense provided the foundation for the past few years, the offense was no slouch, ranking 10th in the nation, scoring 14.1 goals per game. This spring, the formula has flipped with the offense headlining the show, and Berkman hopes that the unit will set the tone and give the defense some time to mature.

"We're definitely light years ahead on offense compared to where we were the last couple of years," he said. "We've had to ride the coattails of our defense until the offense kind of came along near the end of the season. It's kind of a little different story this year. We have a real veteran offensive team, but virtually a lot of youth on the defensive side of the field other than the two senior D-middies."

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