At some point in their lacrosse careers, Jack Dowd, TJ Ellis, Brett Malamphy and Logan Posner reached a crossroads. And their saving grace arrived in the form of coach Jim Berkman and the Salisbury program.
“It’s just been a breath of fresh air,” said Malamphy, a senior faceoff specialist. “It’s just been great. I don’t know what I would be doing if I didn’t end up choosing Salisbury.”
Added Ellis, a senior goalkeeper: “If I didn’t end up coming to Salisbury, I’m not entirely sure where I would be right now.”
What the foursome shares is equal amounts of foresight, wisdom and serendipity in making the fateful decision to transfer to the Sea Gulls. And now they are reaping the rewards by contributing to a team that is 17-1 and will meet the Rochester Institute of Technology (13-0) in the final of the NCAA Division III tournament on Sunday at 4 p.m. at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.
Here is a look at how each of the transfers found their way to Salisbury and have made an impact:
From freshman to starter
Even before Furman announced May 18, 2020 that it was eliminating the men’s lacrosse program, Dowd had entered the transfer portal. But with many seniors electing to take advantage of an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA in light of the coronavirus pandemic, vacancies at other Division I programs were scarce.
Working at a lacrosse camp near his hometown of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, Dowd mentioned his plight to Jacksonville offensive coordinator Tyler Granelli, a former faceoff standout for the Sea Gulls. Granelli called Berkman, who contacted Dowd.
“He gave me the whole 9 yards about the championships, the sponsorships,” Dowd said, referring to the school’s 12 national titles. “And one of my best friends from Furman, Matty Back [a freshman goalie from Annapolis], was already going there. That kind of made it easier.”
In his first season as a member of the first midfield with seniors Jarrett Bromwell and Pierre Armstrong, Dowd has amassed 25 goals and 19 assists. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Dowd has developed a chemistry with the 6-4, 210-pound Bromwell.
“I think just being the same size and being able to shoot as fast as we do, I trust him from anywhere on the field, and I think he trusts me from anywhere on the field,” he said. “So if I see him open for a split second, I’m going to throw him the ball, and he’s probably going to score.”
Berkman, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA men’s lacrosse history with 568 victories in 33 years, said Dowd is just scratching the surface of his potential.
“Nobody knows how good that kid is going to end up being,” he said. “He’s a freshman, and he gets better every day. I haven’t coached many guys with his size. Obviously, Bromwell is a big kid, too. Jack’s a big kid, but not only that, but Jack can go with both hands. And when you’ve got a 6-5 kid that can shoot it well over 100 mph with both hands, he fits right in.”
From done to No. 1
After a freshman year at Stevenson as the backup goalkeeper to Ross Dinan in 2016-17, Ellis transferred to West Virginia for personal reasons. And he was prepared to walk away from lacrosse for good.
But after “getting that itch,” Ellis transferred to Howard Community College where he backstopped the Dragons to the final four in 2018 for the second year in a row. He then chose Salisbury over Cleveland State and Siena of Division I and Lenoir-Rhyne, Limestone and Mercyhurst of Division II.
“Pretty crazy stuff,” he said. “I thought I was done, but ended up not being done. I got back to where I needed to be.”
After backing up Brandon Warren (Calvert Hall) in 2019, Ellis became the starter last season and then this spring. He ranks third among 193 Division III goalies with a 5.69 goals-against average and 27th with a .589 save percentage even as he half-joked about the paucity of work he gets due to the defense in front of him.
“Honestly, one of the hardest parts about playing goalie at Salisbury is you don’t see a million shots a game,” Ellis said. “There have been games when there have been only 12 or 13 shots on goal. It’s just a matter of making the saves when I need to make them. I don’t need to do anything crazy in games or go outside of my comfort zone.”
Berkman is grateful that Ellis did not give up on the sport.
“It took him a year to figure it out a little bit, but he’s been with us for three years,” he said. “So he’s ingrained within our culture and everything that we do.”
From UMBC to the Sea Gulls
After backing up Nathan Klein at UMBC in 2015, Malamphy was poised to contend for the right to be the Retrievers’ primary faceoff specialist. But he took only 25 draws due to a battle with narcolepsy that worsened under the daily grind of coursework, practices and lifting sessions.
“The problem was we had practice right in the middle of the day at UMBC, and I had to take all of my core classes either early in the morning or at night, and I was too exhausted,” the Crofton resident and Arundel graduate said. “I was in and out of doctor appointments before I was able to get it more stable.”
Since transferring to Salisbury before the 2018 season, Malamphy earned Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year and first-team All-American honors in 2019. This spring, he ranks fifth among 228 Division III specialist with a .757 faceoff percentage and 30th with 8.4 ground balls per game.
“From where I started to where I am now, the hard work I put in, the relentless hours, it just means the world to me,” said Malamphy, who credited the coaches with allowing him to take pre-practice naps of 20-40 minutes. “I’m so grateful for them because they’ve been great with helping me plan my classes and practice times around that.”
Berkman said Malamphy has flourished under the tutelage of assistant coach Jayme Block.
“He’s been a critical component for several years now,” he said. “When you have a lot of games where it’s make-it, take-it, it makes a lot easier to play defense.”
From ninth to fourth
Like Dowd, Posner found his way to Salisbury via Granelli. After redshirting at Monmouth as a freshman and playing in a few games at Jacksonville as a sophomore, Posner entered the transfer portal, knowing that he could not go to another Division I program without losing a year of eligibility. So Granelli, the Dolphins offensive coordinator, suggested the Sea Gulls.
The Reisterstown resident and St. Paul’s graduate, who selected Salisbury over Stevenson because of the number of former Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association players on the roster and its proximity to his family’s vacation home in Bethany Beach, Delaware, said the Sea Gulls rekindled his passion for the sport.
“I didn’t drag going into practice every day,” he said. “Every time I went to the locker room, I loved seeing all of these guys, and I loved being there each and every day.”
That doesn’t mean Posner’s path was easy. After fall practices, he was rated by the coaches as the team’s ninth best midfielder and 33rd overall player.
“I kind of went into the fall and winter with a big chip on my shoulder,” he said, adding that he wrote No. 9 on one of his cleats and No. 33 on the other. “I knew that I’m a lot more talented than that. So I went into the winter and worked my butt off.”
Posner ranks fourth among the midfielders in points (28) and sixth on the entire team in goals (19). Berkman said Posner may move back next spring to attack, his more natural position.
“He’s on our man-up team, he’s been on the first line at times, he’s been on the second line, he’s had some really big goals, especially down the stretch,” Berkman said. “He just gives you a guy that can really handle the ball in the second midfield against any pole with his attack background.”
All four former transfers said playing for an NCAA championship after the starts of their careers is a bewildering reversal. They also realize how fortunate they are to get this opportunity.
“As big of a stage as it is, we’ve just got to appreciate what we’ve got and play our game and be mentally and physically prepared,” Malamphy said. “Coach Berkman’s great at preparing us for the big stage. He knows exactly what to prepare us for, and I know that going into the weekend, we’ll be ready.”
NCAA DIII championship
at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut
SALISBURY VS. RIT
Sunday, 4 p.m.
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