Salisbury, Stevenson to meet in Division III NCAA tournament quarterfinals
When the top-ranked Mustangs and No. 2 Sea Gulls meet for the third time this season in the Division III NCAA tournament quarterfinals at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Stevenson, comparisons will be made to Game 7 in a NBA or NHL playoff series.
Paul Cantabene prefers another sports analogy.
"I would say it’s more like an Ali-Frazier match," the Stevenson coach said. "Here are two teams that have taken every punch thrown by each other, and we’re going for round three to see who the better team is. There’s definitely going to be that intensity. Both teams have been very much into the games and left everything on the field both times. This game is going to have a great atmosphere to it, and both teams are going to be ready to play."
The winner Wednesday earns the right to face the winner of Gettysburg-Denison in a semifinal on Sunday, but deciding the rubber match in the series between these Capital Athletic Conference rivals is the first priority.
The Mustangs (16-1) won the first meeting on April 4, scoring a 12-8 decision that snapped Salisbury’s 105-game winning streak against CAC foes. The eight-time reigning national champion Sea Gulls (16-3) returned the favor 15 days later, blasting Stevenson, 13-5, in the conference tournament final.
So it’s safe to say that both sides know what to anticipate Wednesday.
"At this point, it makes it a little easier in preparation in that there are going to be no surprises on Wednesday," Salisbury coach Jim Berkman said. "There might be a new little glitch here and a new little glitch there, but you’re not going to re-invent the people on the team -- you know who the three attackmen are, you know what the matchups are probably going to be, you know what you’ve seen. ... It becomes more like a series, like a hockey series and now we’re down to the seventh game. And you know from watching those kinds of things that as the games go on, the tension and the aggressiveness and everything else keeps multiplying. This is going to be a battle."
It would seem that Salisbury would be at a slight disadvantage in that they will play their fifth consecutive game away from the friendly confines of Sea Gull Stadium. But Berkman said the team is not intimidated by the prospect of playing at Caves Athletic Complex, the Mustangs’ home in Owings Mills.
"Home field is what it is," he said. "In our sport, if a team’s already been there, I think the home-field advantage tends to get negated a bit. We’ve been there. We’ve played on their field, and we’ve played well on their field. So I think confidence-wise, that’s not going to be an issue."
In the same vein, Stevenson is eager to make amends for the eight-goal loss to the Sea Gulls, which occurred in Owings Mills.
"I think we were pretty embarrassed on our home field to play the way we did last time," Cantabene said. "So I’m looking for them to come out and play very intense and play very smart and understand situations and play the game with their heads. I think we’re in great shape and we understand what we have to do. How we handle the game mentally is going to be the big thing for us."