Today’s entry is the final installment of a series taking a look at each of the eight Division III programs in Maryland according to their order of finish from last season. Thursday’s visit was with Stevenson. This is Salisbury’s turn.
Overview: The Sea Gulls went 22-1 and successfully retained the NCAA Division III championship they captured in 2016 by defeating Rochester Institute of Technology, 15-7, on May 28. With 12 national titles, they rank second only to Hobart, which has won 13. They also collected their 20th Capital Athletic Conference tournament championship. Ranked No. 1 in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association’s coaches poll, Salisbury has already opened the season with wins against then-No. 19 Hampden-Sydney and No. 12 Lynchburg.
Reason for optimism: Graduation took a toll on one of the best defenses in the country, but that unit figures to be the catalyst for the Sea Gulls again.
Two of three starting defensemen in seniors Kyle Tucker (67 ground balls, 30 caused turnovers) and Will Nowesnick (65 GB, 44 CT) are back, and senior Cory Berry (21 GB, 23 CT) has grabbed the third spot. Seniors Troy Miller (19 GB, 7 CT, two goals, three assists) and Jeremiah LaClair (33 GB, 12 CT, 2 G, 1 A) return as the top two short-stick midfielders. Junior goalkeeper Anthony Stavrakis appears to have answered any questions by giving up only 16 goals in the two wins thus far.
“Having that experience and the talent back there definitely makes it difficult for teams to score or even get shots off,” coach Jim Berkman said. “They’ve been very good. That’s a very good unit.”
Reason for pessimism: The team has won 52 percent of its faceoffs (26 of 50) this season, but it is still an area that Berkman plans to scrutinize.
Junior T.J. Logue has succeeded Duncan Campbell (58.6 percent on 237 of 410, 109 GB, 3 G) as the team’s primary faceoff specialist and has won 55.3 percent on 21 of 38 with 12 ground balls. But injuries to junior Brett Malamphy (sprained ankle) and freshman Max Towers (forearm) have impeded their development to the point that there is a noticeable gap between Logue and the other duo.
“We’ve got some work to do,” Berkman said. “T.J. is definitely the No. 1 guy. There seems to be a big distinction between him and the other two. … The wing play is really good because we’re putting two poles up there. We won some faceoffs on Saturday and turned them over, that we’ve got to work on with T.J., but that’s definitely an area that we’ve got to work hard on and get better.”
Keep an eye on: How a re-tooled attack that graduated Nathan Blondino (61 G, 73 A), Nick Garbarino (68 G, 20 A) and Carson Kalama (69 G, 19 A) will fare this spring will be key.
Sophomores Josh Melton (24 G, 20 A), Griffin Moroney (8 G, 1 A) and Pierre Armstrong (2 G, 2 A) have totaled seven goals and four assists in the first two games. That might seem like modest numbers, but that includes getting little from Melton, who sat out the season opener and went without a point against Lynchburg on Saturday because of bouts with tonsillitis and the flu.
“We’re hoping that he’s another tool in our arsenal that hasn’t yet been utilized at this point,” Berkman said of Melton, who has lost 15 pounds because of the illnesses. “But Griffin is a good finisher on the crease, and he had a couple nice goals on Saturday. Pierre’s a quick, elusive kid who is just going to get better with each game as he gains more confidence. And they’ve got some solid middies there that can take some pressure off of them. So they’ll just get better every day.”
What he said: Salisbury is seeking to become the first program to capture three consecutive national titles since, well, the Sea Gulls did it from 2003 to 2005. The Nike/US lacrosse Division III preseason poll ranked the team No. 3 behind Wesleyan and York, but that has not created many waves among the players and coaches.
“I don’t know if that’s motivated them,” Berkman said of being ranked third. “I think there’s just a lot of guys that are thinking that maybe they can win three in a row. And the poll is probably rightfully deserved. We lost 250 goals from last year. When you lose three guys that score 60-some and Brendan Bromwell, a first-team All-American middie, and two seniors that scored a boatload of points from the second midfield, there’s obviously a lot of points to return, which I guess is why people rated us that way.”