BALTIMORE -- It appeared through 20 minutes of the Division III Men's Lacrosse Championship, one of the nation's top defenses was going to get the best of one of DIII's most explosive offensive units.
The final 40 minutes went the way of the offense, however.
Only three times in 23 games did Salisbury (21-2) give up more than 10 goals in a game in 2014. Sunday, Mike Daly's Jumbos bested that total in 45 minutes.
"We were focused on the gold trophy," Daly said. "That takes care of just about anything else within a lacrosse season. We have a system, we believe in it, and the goals are great, but, as we talked about, our defense … we put a lot of pressure on them, and those guys need to be the toughest guys on the field. At the end of the day, those are the guys that carried our team through this tournament and carried this team down the stretch."
The Jumbos finish 21-2 and with 423 goals, the highest total for a season across all three divisions. Eleven times in 2014, including a 21-goal salvo in the NCAA semifinals, Tufts scored 20 goals in a game. Nine players scored goals Sunday with junior Cole Bailey, a first-team All-American from Millersville, Maryland, dishing out five assists. The tournament's outstanding player honoree finished the season with 65 assists, a school record and the 17th-highest total in DIII history. He keyed a second-quarter run that saw the Jumbos turn a three-goal deficit into a tie by halftime.
"I wouldn't have won [the award] without the guys who are playing with me," Bailey said. "They just set me up for so many successful plays."
Bailey's 53rd goal of 2014 came on an energetic rush from behind the cage to draw the Jumbos to 4-2 at 7:03. A big ground ball pickup by Peter Bowers led to a Beau Wood goal, his 73rd of the spring, for 4-3 moments later.
The Sea Gulls came back with a tic-tac-toe transition goal initiated by goalie Alex Taylor and finished by Rhett DePol with 4:30 left in the half. Tufts stayed hot at the offensive end, however, getting back-to-back goals by sophomore John Uppgren to forge the deadlock after 30 minutes.
Uppgren, another first-team All-American, Peter Gill and Ben Andreycak each scored two goals for the Jumbos. Andreycak, just a sophomore, gave Tufts a lead it would not relinquish with a pair of goals early in the third quarter.
"The only thing that gets bigger in the second half is our smiles," Daly said. "Just go out there and just show everybody how much fun we have playing this game, how much passion this team can play with, and just smile.
"Just get that smile as big across your face as we can get it, and that's the short of it."
"They had seven goals in the third," Taylor said. "They stuck their shots, placed them well; they ran their offense to a T, like great players."
An NCAA finalist in 10 of the past 12 years, Salisbury did not go quietly. Down 12-6 after three quarters, Jim Berkman's squad got goals from Donovan Lange, Mike Kane and Sean Fitzgerald to close to within three with a little less than seven minutes remaining. Down the stretch, Tufts goalie Patton Watkins, who was on the receiving end of Salisbury's rout in the 2011 final, came up big. A senior from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Watkins made five key saves in the final eight minutes and totaled 17 in his final collegiate contest.
"I just focus on doing what I know how to do and trusting that the defense will have my back," Watkins said. "Defense was locked in [Sunday].
"It was so much fun. I am so honored to be a part of this [Sunday]. I couldn't be happier right now; I don't even know what to say, the emotions are just all over the place."
It was a tough end for a big group of Salisbury seniors, who, during the past four seasons, were part of an 82-9 record.
"Very proud of our seniors, especially some guys that got a lot better that have made this run possible," Berkman said. "I can honestly say that this was one of my most enjoyable years coaching ever, in terms of the kids, their response, their effort, their commitment. It's been a great year."
Two titles in five years? Is it the making of a new lacrosse dynasty?
"I think it's a great tribute to our alums and all the people and friends that support us," Daly said. "We're so blessed with everything, a great university, great people, great alumni and great student-athletes.
"It's a pleasure to come to work every day."