BETHESDA — An adjustment paved the way for Thomas Cirillo to be the hero for the Salisbury men's lacrosse team.
After watching several high-to-high shots go for naught during the second half, Cirillo decided to change his shooting stroke, and his bouncer during a man-up opportunity 2:10 into overtime propelled the No. 2 Sea Gulls to a key 13-12 Division III win against No. 9 Ohio Wesleyan before an announced 600 at The Landon School Sunday afternoon.
Salisbury improved to 5-0 for the 12th time in the last 13 years and defeated its fourth ranked opponent this season. Cirillo led all scorers with six points on three goals and three assists, but it was the senior midfielder's final tally – after some advice from coach Jim Berkman and assistant coach Michael Baggetta – that proved the difference for the team.
"Since the start of the second half, I was taking my shots too deep and going high-to-high," said Cirillo, who took a game-high 11 shots. "Coach told me to get a little bit closer, and Coach Baggetta told me to change my planes. So I finally figured, 'Let me go high-to-low on one.' It was kind of ugly, a high bouncer, but it went in."
Said Berkman: "I give Tommy credit because he finally mixed his shot up. He shot three or four in a row high-to-high right off hip and then he bounced the ball. … To his credit, he mixed his shot up and when he got it, the senior and All American, he buried that shot."
Cirillo's game-winning goal occurred thanks to a solid performance from faceoff specialist Duncan Campbell. After winning just 8-of-17 draws in the first half, the junior transfer from Division I Monmouth won 8-of-11 faceoffs during the rest of the game, including the one to open overtime.
The Battling Bishops (4-1) never touched the ball in the extra session, and sophomore long-stick midfielder Trent Schulte was flagged for slashing, setting up the extra-man chance for Cirillo.
Junior attackman Carson Kalama (Bel Air) added two goals and one assist for Salisbury, and junior midfielder Brendan Bromwell and junior attackman Nick Garbarino each scored twice.
Despite dominating shots (42-26) and ground balls (44-25), the Sea Gulls couldn't gain more than a two-goal advantage due to inconsistent play in the net.
Sophomore Joshua Dean earned his fourth consecutive start, but after making just one save and giving up seven goals in the first half, the Glen Burnie resident and Pallotti graduate was pulled at halftime in favor of Anthony Stavrakis.
The sophomore made two saves, but after Ohio Wesleyan sophomore midfielder Luke Leyden scored his fourth goal from 15 yards with 12:52 left in regulation, Berkman went back to Dean.
"I wasn't playing well, and I knew I wasn't playing well," said Dean, who was credited with the win (his fifth of the season). "I figured Coach would make the switch, and he did. I was gathering my thoughts on the sideline. 'If I go back in, I need to do better than I did.' Coach just came up to me and said, 'You're going back in.' So I went back in and got a ground ball and drew a foul. It was an experience. I didn't think I was going to go back in. I just wanted to go back in and do whatever I could to help us win."
Said Berkman: "Josh wasn't seeing the ball very well. Not only did he not make the saves, but he wasn't touching the ball either. So we thought we'd give Anthony an opportunity, but Anthony wasn't seeing the ball very well either. So after that one long shot from 15 yards, we went back to Dean. … It's musical chairs right now."
Leyden finished with five goals on six shots, and junior attackman Matt Maier and freshman attackman Max Tennant each had two goals and one assist. But senior attackman Marcus Dietz, who torched Salisbury for two goals and one assist in the fourth quarter of last year's 9-8 overtime upset, scored a goal and added an assist in the first half before getting shut out by sophomore defenseman Kyle Tucker the rest of the game.
Battling Bishops coach Mike Plantholt said the Sea Gulls were efficient in the categories that mattered.
"I don't know if there was one key," said Plantholt, a Cockeysville native and Loyola Blakefield graduate. "I'm looking at the stats right now, and the first one I look at is the ground balls. They out-ground balled us 44-25, and I thought we had our fair share of 50-50 ground balls and just weren't able to pick them up. They're a good team, I think we're a good team. I think we're pretty similar teams, and I think that kind of showed today."
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