May 20, 2012

Salisbury Beats Stevenson Again; Will Face Cortland in Championship

by Earl Holland | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

Sam Bradman had two goals and one assist as the Sea Gulls offense got going in the second half, scoring six of its seven goals in the final two quarters.
© Greg Wall

SALISBURY, Md. – The NCAA Division III men's lacrosse semifinals featured a rematch between rivals Salisbury and Stevenson, the top two offensive teams in the nation.

In order for the Sea Gulls to advance, they would have to beat the team they had to rally against twice in their previous two victories this season.

After 25 minutes of scoreless ball on Sunday, Salisbury tallied its first goal late in the first half and scored six more times in the second as they beat the Mustangs 7-2. Salisbury will face Cortland in this Sunday's national championship game in Foxborough, Mass.

"It was a great battle for us against an extremely talented team," said Salisbury coach Jim Berkman. "I thought defensively, starting with the back line with Alex Taylor [19 saves], we were able to force them to make a number of shots that a goalie can save."

The first period of play was back-and-forth as the two teams played to a scoreless tie. The Sea Gulls (22-0) had their chances to jump ahead, but couldn't get a shot past Mustangs net-minder Ian Bolland.

Salisbury's defense limited Stevenson (18-5) to a total of three shots in the first 15 minutes even when the Mustangs found themselves with the man advantage twice. On the day, Stevenson went 0-for-6 with a man up.

Mustangs coach Paul Cantabene said having the man advantage was something his squad had struggled with all year long.

"We've worked on it all season long and we've tried different things and to get good shots," he said. "I thought we had gotten some quality shots and a couple of pipes and unfortunately they didn't fall. We knew it was going to be a big part of the game and we didn't convert on them and that's a big part of the game."

Second-quarter action was just as fast and furious as the first as both squads worked to break the scoreless tie. Stevenson began the frame with three early shots on goal, but Taylor denied them the opportunity to take the lead.

The first tally of the game came late in the half as senior attacker Lantz Carter fired a shot past Bolland to give SU the 1-0 advantage into halftime.

"In our first possession in the first quarter, I noticed Stevenson was pressuring us out and not giving us any respect," Carter said. "I figured the next time I get in I was going to take what they were giving me. Sammy [Bradman] fed me the ball and they gave me the whole left side so I went down the alley, faked and came back stuck the shot."

Third-quarter play favored the Sea Gulls as senior midfielder Cory Nowak fired a one-timer past Bolland to extend the lead to 2-0 with 8:08 remaining in the period.

The dam began to burst on Stevenson as Salisbury senior Sam Bradman followed with his first goal of the game and Nowak added his second on the day.

The Mustangs were finally able to snap the shutout as freshman Michael Crowe tallied a goal on a wrap-around shot past Taylor. The good feelings for Stevenson lasted only briefly as Bradman tallied his second goal to give the Sea Gulls a 5-1 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

"When you have six guys who can shoot and score on the field, it's sort of hard to focus your attention on one person," Bradman said. "They were focused on me early on, but once Cory and Lantz started scoring, they realized they had to get in the zone a little bit."

Stevenson cut into the lead with a coast-to-coast scoring play by defenseman Kyle Holechek.

The Sea Gulls were able to add two late goals by Matt Clarke and Tony Mendes to put the game away.

Berkman said having the opportunity to vie for the program's 10th national championship is one of the things he looks most forward to.

"It's awful fun to be going to the final four, it's one of the three greatest things that happens in your life," he said. "The other ones are the day you get married and the day you have your first child. Of those three, there's only one of them you'd like to do multiple times and it's not the first two."


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