In the three years since capturing the NCAA Division III championship in 2012, Salisbury's offensive production has dipped from 17.4 goals per game to 12.6 in 2013, 13.5 in 2014, and 14.1 in 2015.
This spring, the No. 3 Sea Gulls (20-1) have averaged 16.8 goals, but the key category may be the team's shooting percentage.
After the 2012 squad converted 40.2 percent of its attempts, the number dipped to 27.7 percent in 2013, 31.4 percent in 2014, and 32.8 percent in 2015. The offense has shot 37.5 percent thus far, and coach Jim Berkman credited the players' experience for the increase in efficiency.
"The attack's a little bit more experienced, and the midfield lines have kids who have been around the block," he said Monday. "We've taken really good high-percentage shots versus 'Oh, my hands are free from 14 yards.' We haven't been shooting that shot this year that is a lower percentage shot. They've been waiting until they got to 11 yards. I just think the discipline of the shots we've been taking plus the ability of the middies to feed a little bit more this year allows the ball to go inside a little bit more, which increases your percentage."
Salisbury -- which hosts No. 6 Denison (18-1) in an NCAA tournament quarterfinal on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Sea Gull Stadium -- has been paced by junior attackman Carson Kalama, who has converted 57.3 percent (55 goals on 96 shots) from his usual position around opponents' crease.
There are four other starters who have shot better than 30 percent this season, and junior Nick Garbarino, who has replaced junior Brady Dashiell (torn Achilles tendon) as a starter on attack, has shot 54.2 percent. Berkman said the ability of the players to maintain that level of production will be key if the Sea Gulls want to end their drought.
"We've got to shoot well," he said. "If we shoot well, we're going to score. We've got good shooters, and we're going to get shots. We've just got to be disciplined about the shots that we're taking. We've got to look past some of the opportunities that are OK and be disciplined to get the ones that are really good as we move forward."