April 19, 2009

OWINGS MILLS, Md. - The No. 10 Salisbury University men's lacrosse team captured their 15th consecutive Capital Athletic Conference championship on the road Sunday with a 13-5 win over No. 1 Stevenson University before a crowd of 1,781. The Sea Gulls, the two-time defending national champions, claim the conference automatic bid for the 2009 NCAA Division III men's lacrosse tournament where they will make their 21st straight appearance.

The Sea Gulls (14-3) used a patient offense and strong defense to defeat the Mustangs (14-1) who entered with the sixth best scoring defense and ninth best scoring offense. This is SU's first victory over a No. 1 Division III team since April 17, 1994 when the then second-ranked Sea Gulls defeated top-ranked Nazareth College, 21-2, on the road.

"It was just a huge win. To come up here and beat the No. 1 team in the country, who's had a couple real quality wins, and to win the conference championship is great," said SU coach Jim Berkman, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA men's lacrosse history.

Salisbury jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on a pair of unassisted goals by junior attackman Jake DeLillo in the first quarter. The Salisbury defense stifled the Mustang attack as sophomore goalie Johnny Rodriquez made five saves in the first quarter. The SU defense played brilliant in the frame as it forced six turnovers and blocked a bevy of Mustang shots.

The Gulls opened up the second quarter with another goal from DeLillo who received a nice feed from senior All-American midfielder Kylor Berkman (three assists) just 1:23 seconds into the quarter. Berkman, the reigning National Player and Midfielder of the Year, would set up senior Stephen Krasco on a man-up opportunity to put the Sea Gulls up 4-0. SU would close the half out with a pair of unassisted goals by freshman Matt Cannone (three goals) and sophomore Eric Krum (two goals, one assist) to take a 6-0 lead into intermission.

SU controlled the first half stats as the maroon and gold outshot the Mustangs 18-16 (14-5 shots on goal) while the Sea Gulls won 5-of-9 face-offs and was nearly perfect on clears (10-of-11). Stevenson scooped up 20 ground balls compared to SU's 17.

"We knew we had to win this game and we played just outstanding," said Jim Berkman. "We took away all the things we wanted to. We made them shoot the ball from shots that gave us an opportunity to save it and getting out to a 6-0 halftime lead surely gave us a little bit of confidence."

The Mustangs would finally get on the scoreboard in the third quarter as Nicola Bevacqua (one goal, one assist) scored an unassisted goal at the 9:11 mark to make the score 6-1. That goal broke a scoreless streak of 66 minutes and 42 seconds dating back to SU's 18-5 win over St. Mary's (Md.) College in the CAC semifinal round where the Seahawks scored a with 53 seconds left in the first half. SU didn't waste any time with a response as the Sea Gulls won the face-off and DeLillo fed Krum for the quick goal 13 seconds later. Minutes later SU took advantage of a man-up opportunity when Cannone finished off a pass from Krasco.

Former SU All-American midfielder Brett Yoder scored Stevenson's second goal, man-up at the 5:08 mark, off an assist from Jimmy Dailey (two assists). Junior Matt Cowley closed out the third quarter with an unassisted goal with 38 seconds left to give the Gulls a 9-2 lead with one quarter to play.

Stevenson gained some momentum early in the fourth with a goal by Chris Baldwin assisted by Dailey with 10:30 left in the game. The Gulls squashed the Mustangs' chances with a pair of goals, in a span of one minute and 12 seconds, by Cannone off an assist from midfielder Ryan Finch (11-of-21 face-offs) and Krum from Berkman. Stevenson scored the next three goals before junior midfielder Mike Von Kamecke netted final goal of the game, man-up, with 1:40 left.

Rodriquez (14-2) played the entire game for SU between the pipes as the Gambrills, Md., native stopped 11 shots and scooped up seven ground balls. The SU defense of senior Kevin Maynard (one ground ball), juniors Connor Burgasser (three ground balls, one caused turnover) and Jeff Breeding (four ground balls, one caused turnover) and sophomore Collin Tokosch (one ground ball) played brilliant for the maroon and gold. The SU defense caused eight of Stevenson's 24 turnovers plus the Mustangs converted 22-of-25 clear attempts.

Salisbury turned the tables on Stevenson after the Mustangs beat the Sea Gulls 12-8 on April 4 this season to end SU's 105-game conference winning streak. The loss snaps Stevenson's 15-game win streak and it is the first loss at home in 13 games for the Mustangs since the same two teams squared off on April 5, 2008 as SU won 13-12.

Junior Geoff Hebert (13-1) suffers the loss for the Mustangs as he made 10 saves, six in the second quarter alone. The 13 goals allowed by the Mustangs are the most they have allowed this season. SU is the second leading scoring offense in the country. Stevenson finished the game with 10 penalties for over 12 minutes including six in the final two minutes and 20 seconds of play compared to the three penalties by SU for four minutes.

The Sea Gulls will next face Eastern Shore rival Washington (Md.) College on Saturday, April 25, on the road in Chestertown, Md., at 1 p.m. At stake is the Charles B. Clark Cup, given to the winner of the regular-season matchup between the two Division III schools. SU has won every Clark Cup since its inception in 2004.