For only the third time since 1995, Salisbury failed to capture the Capital Athletic Conference tournament crown, falling to No. 12 York, 10-9, at Sea Gull Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
An offense that produced a season-low in goals and included a combined 1-of-16 performance from the starting midfield of seniors Thomas Cirillo and James Burton and sophomore Brendan Bromwell is concerning enough, but coach Jim Berkman was encouraged by the players' display of emotion after the loss.
"They were pretty upset," he said Monday morning. "Hopefully, that's fuel for the fire. Again, it wasn't that we weren't putting ourselves in position to win the game. We had numerous chances to win the game as far as shots and opportunities. But we've got to put the ball in the back of the net. That's where it counts."
Berkman was somewhat alarmed that the Sea Gulls (18-1), who will likely fall from their No. 1 spot atop the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association's Division III rankings when they are released later Monday, have trailed in the first half in their last three contests. No. 17 Cabrini had a 6-4 lead in the second quarter on April 16, Frostburg State led 5-3 in the same period on April 23, and the Spartans owned a 6-3 advantage at halftime.
"I think the slow starts have a lot to do with your shooting," Berkman said. "The first possession on Saturday, I think there were seven shots, and we didn't score. We hit the pipe twice, and we shot wide a few times. We had seven shots before they even touched the ball and in other games, we would have buried one of those seven shots. They came down and they got a goal, and it gives a team a little more confidence. But we've been out of the gates slow in three games in a row now."
Berkman said he did not think Saturday's setback would drop Salisbury from the No. 1 spot in the South Region rankings published last week with regards to the NCAA tournament. Instead, he relayed a message he told the players after the loss.
"'You're fortunate this happened now as a wake-up call because you live for another day, another opportunity. If this had been a couple weeks from now, you wouldn't have had another opportunity,'" Berkman said. "We've got to learn from this."