MJ: In Defense of Tufts-Salisbury II
For the 12th time in the 31-year history of the NCAA Division III men's championship game, we'll have a rematch of the previous year's game when Salisbury and Tufts reprise their roles from last year's 9-6 victory by the Jumbos at 7 p.m. this Sunday in Baltimore. This type of predictability is boring on one level, but this game needed to happen, if only to clarify last year's results.
There's been an underlying belief by many Salisbury fans and boosters – some of which frequent or have frequented the US Lacrosse offices – that the Sea Gulls simply suffered from "one bad game," and the team that showed up on that Sunday was a shadow of the one that played all year. Some have even posited the "one bad quarter" theory, arguing that other than the anomalous first frame in which the Jumbos outscored Salisbury, 6-1, the Gulls controlled the game.
These kinds of beliefs are typical of those supporting powerful programs that appear every Memorial Day. Either Salisbury wins the game or Salisbury loses the game; the opponent's efforts are inconsequential. Or so the thinking goes. It's excuse-making at its finest as it ignores the obvious fact that Tufts handled the Gulls in the first quarter and dictated the tempo for much of the remainder of the game.
It's an understandable reaction because it's tough for Salisbury backers to wrap their heads around the fact that Sam Bradman, Matt Cannone and Mike von Kamecke – a trio of All-Americans and the team's top three scorers, who combined for 149 goals and 91 assists during the regular season – only managed a combined one assist against Tufts. It would be convenient to explain this away by saying the planets were misaligned for the Gulls that day, but it was clearly because the Jumbos' defense shut them down.
Now Salisbury fans gets their shot at revenge, and it's put up or shut up time.
Both teams have deftly navigated their way through their respective regions, and the stage is set again, but this time excuses will not be tolerated by maroon and gold-clad fans. If Tufts makes it two in a row, it won't be because Salisbury took them lightly (another canard often used) or it was too hot or Tufts' hideous brown and baby blue color scheme was too distracting (I never heard that one used, but it's actually one I might agree with). It'll be because the Jumbos were the better team. Again.
This isn't a team issue. It would be unfair to attribute any of these sentiments to the Salisbury players or coaches. While they certainly are looking forward to a rematch (as Cannone explained after the Gulls win over Roanoke), there hasn't been many excuses out of the Sea Gulls camp for last year's setback. This is strictly an issue for the Salisbury fans, who love to crow when they're winning and grouse after a loss.
And if Salisbury does win?
Well, then it will be the Tufts fans' turn to make excuses, meaning we'll probably need a rematch in 2012.