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Salisbury men's lacrosse relying on defense to squeeze life out of opposing offenses

Salisbury managed just six goals in their opening game of the NCAA Division III tournament against a dangerous Roanoke squad. But the Sea Gulls surrendered just three goals to secure a three-score victory in Wednesday night's first-round contest.

Salisbury (16-4), which is ranked No. 8 in the latest United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll, shut out the Maroons (12-7) in the second half and held them scoreless for the final 34:38. Roanoke launched just 24 shots and only 11 were on net.

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"The defense played outstanding," Sea Gulls coach Jim Berkman said Thursday morning. "We were able to shut them down the entire second half. We didn't give them any good looks. I think they only had 11 shots on goal. We did a really nice job defensively. It was a great effort, and it allowed us to win the game."

The Maroons' starting offense combined for just four points, and Salisbury blanked four starters in junior attackman Will Pilat (40 goals and 17 assists in 2015), sophomore attackman Kevin Jackson (30, 26), junior midfielder Colin Mackenzie (33, 20) and junior midfielder Joey Dishaw (14, 7).

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"I just think we had good matchups against them," Berkman said. "We negated any opportunities. And when they did get one, [senior goalkeeper] Connor Anderson came up with good saves."

The Sea Gulls have been downright oppressive on defense. Only two opponents in No. 2 Gettysburg and No. 4 Lynchburg have reached the 10-goal mark against Salisbury, which ranks second in the country in fewest goals allowed per game (5.6).

Berkman said the cohesion between three close defensemen in seniors Knute Kraus and Austin Kemp (Centennial) and freshman Will Nowesnick and the Rope unit of senior long-stick midfielder Marty Wallace and junior short-stick defensive midfielders Preston Dabbs and Davis Anderson has been key in controlling the traffic in front of Connor Anderson.

"I just think we've got six outstanding defenders that play really good one-on-one defense and don't get beat a lot," Berkman said. "So there's not a lot of sliding or openings for opponents, and they've really got to grind it out to earn their goals."

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