Salisbury coach Jim Berkman acknowledged that the players drew additional inspiration when they saw that the second game of the 2016 campaign involved a home meeting with Lynchburg – a rematch the NCAA Division III tournament quarterfinal last spring, which the Sea Gulls lost.
But Berkman downplayed the notion that avenging that setback was the top priority when No. 5 Salisbury (1-0) welcomes the No. 2 Hornets (0-0) to Sea Gull Stadium on Wednesday.
"Maybe that plays into it a little bit, but right now, we just want to get a great win," Berkman said Tuesday morning. "This would be a great win early in the season as far as down the road goes with the playoffs and all of that other kind of stuff."
The Sea Gulls' path to a deeper march in the postseason was derailed by a 13-11 loss at Lynchburg on May 13, 2015. Trailing 13-8 midway through the fourth quarter, Salisbury went on a 3-0 run, and a pair of shots hit goalposts before time ran out.
The Hornets advanced to the title game where they were humbled by Tufts, 19-11, leaving the Sea Gulls to wonder what might have been.
"I think they knew they were knocking on the door and that if we would have gotten a break here or there toward the end of that game, we thought we could have won that game," Berkman recalled. "That obviously gives the confidence to say, 'Hey, we were right there knocking on the door of the team that went to the championship game last year, and we had them on the ropes.' We hit two pipes in the last two minutes to tie the game. But we've had a battle with them for the last four or five years, and it's just a great game to look forward to, and they're excited for the opportunity."
Salisbury should have its full complement of players, including Andrew Ternahan. The junior long-stick midfielder, who ranked second on last year's squad in ground balls (80) and sixth in caused turnovers (17), sat out the season-opening 12-7 win over Hampden-Sydney on Feb. 6 because of an unspecified ailment but practiced fully Monday.
Ternahan and senior short-stick defensive midfielders Preston Dabbs (20 ground balls and 25 caused turnovers in 2015) and Davis Anderson (66 GB, 21 CT) give the Sea Gulls a formidable defensive presence.
"He's one of the faster guys on the field," Berkman said of Ternahan. "So he can usually be a half-step ahead of anybody he guards and can get a stick on the other kid's stick and get him out of his rhythm. He brings a lot of experience after last year. Throw him in there with Dabbs and Anderson, and that's a pretty good D-middie/long-stick unit."