FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A perfect 10.
Sam Bradman made sure of it. The speedy senior midfielder scored six goals as unbeaten Salisbury defeated Cortland 14-10 to win the 2012 NCAA Men’s Division III Lacrosse Championship.
What’s more, Bradman became the first player in DIII history to be named Most Outstanding Player in back-to-back years, while his school won its 10th title and second in a row.
“Sam’s a great player,” Salisbury coach Jim Berkman said of Bradman, who finished his career with 201 goals, 71 this season. “I’m fortunate to be able to coach him for four years.”
|DIII LAX CHAMPIONSHIP|
• Salisbury 14, Cortland 10
Recap Stats Highlights
|Bradford reacts to Sea Gulls title|
|Cannone talks about the ‘unbelievable’ win|
|Berkman discusses his 10th national title|
|Salisbury’s coach Jim Berkman reflects his heart attack|
Salisbury, which has won 30 matches in a row, finished this season 23-0.
“It’s unbelievable,” senior defender Andrew Sellers said. “That’s the goal every year, to go undefeated and win the national championship. Last year we lost a game and still won the national championship, but nothing’s as sweet as perfection.”
Senior teammate Lantz Carter, who scored three goals Sunday, added that Berkman told them they had a chance to be great. “He said we had a chance to be compared to all those great teams at Salisbury, and all those teams were undefeated. So for the seniors coming back, that was one of our goals, to be perfect and be one of those great teams.”
“I’ll let Coach answer that question. But I think so.”
Berkman, who not only coached an unbeaten team but survived a heart attack in March just a month after his 52nd birthday, smiled.
“We’ve had some pretty special teams at Salisbury,” said Berkman, 402-37 in 23 seasons at the school and 411-42 overall. “In the same sentence I can honestly say that this team is right there with a couple of those teams. “The ’94 and ’95 teams and 2007 teams were pretty special. The number one defenses and number one offenses and in goal differential, but in the same sentence when we’re talking about the best teams, this definitely is right there in the same breath.”
The Sea Gulls, champions of the Capital Athletic Conference, got there by surviving a game in which something had to give. Cortland, too, was unbeaten, as the Red Dragons on the SUNYAC finished 21-1.
“They’re going to go down in the records as one of the great teams in Cortland history,” Cortland coach Steve Beville said. “They had more wins in one season. They played for a national title. They played their hearts out. This team played their hearts out today and Salisbury made more plays than we did. Not that many more, but they did.”
You could say the Sea Gulls were showing a lot of heart, which could have been the theme of the season since Berkman drove himself to the hospital. The coach, whose one brother died at 44 of a heart attack and another who had a stroke at 52, credited his devotion to fitness and history of competing in more than 100 triathlons for saving his life.
“He didn’t take much time off for it and just pushed through the injury,” Sellers said. “It just shows the Salisbury determination. Even though he was in the hospital sending out texts telling us to get it done. I remember I texted him and I said, ‘Hey, I hope everything’s great.’ And he just texted me back and said make sure you’re watching film or something. So we pick up from Berkman’s intensity. It was really good to see coach Berkman come back from that in full health.”
His staff made sure the Sea Gulls never missed a beat.
“We were still running practices with the same intensity,” Bradman said. “We had it in the back of our mind knowing he’d be back in full spirit in a couple of weeks.”
It wasn’t even that long, which is evidently how Berkman operates. Sunday, before the game, Berkman talked to the team for the first time openly about what he went through.
“We were talking about seizing the moment and perspective in life and enjoying everything,” Berkman said before pausing. “They knew I had a heart attack. But they didn’t know exactly what transpired when it happened at the gym and what I went through and I kind of shared it a little bit.
“The whole point of the message was that you have to live your life in the moment and you’re not going to get the moment back from today and make sure you leave it all on the field and when you take that shower at the end of the day you can honestly say there were no regrets and I gave it my very best effort. Life presents a lot of opportunities and make sure you seize those moments.”
Certainly his team did that against Cortland, breaking away from a 7-7 tie as Bradman scored three of his goals after that. It put the finishing touches on a season in which Berkman survived a heart attack and went unbeaten.
“Let’s put it this way: It’s been a pretty interesting two months,” Berkman said. “I was fortunate probably because of the lifestyle I live in being extremely healthy and extremely fit. A lot of people wouldn’t overcome it, 100-percent blockage, not too many people ever survive that. But I think because of the years of working out six and seven days a week and the over 100 triathlons that I’ve done, the auxiliary arteries were strong enough to pull me through.”
Sounds a lot like his team.