Postscript from Haverford at Salisbury
With a trip to the national semifinals at stake, Salisbury put the ball in the hands of their eighth-leading goal scorer.
That’s not a dig at senior face-off specialist Ryan Finch, but a realization of the hot hand that he had against No. 4 seed and visiting Haverford (12-6) in a NCAA Tournament quarterfinal at Sea Gull Stadium Wednesday night.
Finch, a Finksburg native and Westminster graduate who had scored five goals entering Wednesday’s contest, scored twice including the game-winner after winning the face-off just 12 seconds into overtime to catapult top-seeded Salisbury (20-1) to a 12-11 decision and a semifinal meeting with No. 2 seed Stevenson.
Finch, who had dominated the face-off X to the tune of 18 wins in 24 attempts, popped the ball forward, scooped up the loose ball, and sprinted down to the box. Recognizing that no Fords player was sliding, Finch took the shot and scored.
"They hadn’t been sliding all night on the fast breaks because they didn’t want our attack to score on fast breaks," Sea Gulls coach Jim Berkman said. "He threw a little fake like he was going to throw it to the point, which froze them even more. … He came right off the face-off on a fast break, they held on the attackmen, and before you knew it, he was already to about six or seven yards from the goal, and he just ripped it high and hard to the corner."
Salisbury trailed, 11-9, after Haverford senior midfielder Andrew Kim scored with 7:07 left in regulation. But sophomore midfielder Sam Bradman scored his first goal of the game with 5:56 remaining, and junior midfielder Shawn Zordani tied it up with 33 seconds left.
Despite the late deficit, Berkman said he never sensed any anxiety on the part of his players.
"I was really happy with the way our kids kept their composure and stayed the course and kept running the things that we do and kept playing solid defense," he said. "They didn’t panic or take a penalty that would’ve been really critical to us in terms of maybe not coming back. … There was a good sign of confidence on the sideline."
*Bradman has had a quiet postseason thus far. The team’s leader in goals (56) and points (82) has recorded just two goals and one assist in two tournament contests partly because Springfield and Haverford paid a lot of attention to him. Berkman said he’s not terribly worried about his star player. "Obviously, anybody would like their best player to have four or five goals, but by the same token, we’ve got six or seven guys who can score goals," Berkman said. "And if they’re going to pay that much attention to somebody and they’re going to play him with a pole and they’re going to slide to him, then obviously, somebody else is going to get some great opportunities. That’s what a great player does. He gives everybody else a step or two, and if they’re going to pay that much attention to him, he’s going to have to play team lacrosse and get the ball to other players who can definitely get it done. But obviously, he’s got to play and draw that attention, which means he’s got to take some chances and risks and work to get the ball, and we’ve got to put him in position to get the ball maybe a little more on Sunday."
*The Sea Gulls’ 12th trip to the national championship game is blocked by a familiar foe. The Mustangs (19-1) edged Roanoke, 15-14 in overtime on Wednesday, setting up a semifinal showdown between Capital Athletic Conference rivals. Stevenson beat Salisbury, 10-6, in the CAC Tournament final partly because the Sea Gulls put just 19 of 40 shots on senior goalkeeper Geoff Hebert. Berkman said that percentage must change on Sunday."I think we shot the ball a little too quickly when we lost," he said. "We took the first shot that presented itself. I only watched bits and pieces of yesterday’s game, but Roanoke had 72 shots. But when I was watching them, they took a lot of 15- and 17-yard shots. To win a great game, you can’t have your guys shooting from 15, 17 yards. I think last time, we took some of those shots because the way they play sometimes presents those opportunities. You have to be disciplined not to take those shots. For us, that’s what it’s always been about. We’ve never been a team to shoot the ball from out there, but we did that on that day. It’s a tribute to them. They made us play a little faster, and we played the way they wanted us to play. And if we play that way on Sunday, we’re going to be in trouble."
*The Sea Gulls have lost just five times in the last two seasons, but three have come at the hands of Stevenson. The Mustangs’ win on April 24 snapped Salisbury’s string of 16 consecutive CAC Tournament crowns, but Berkman took great pains to emphasize that Sunday’s game is not about payback. "There’s more than enough incentive here," he said. "It doesn’t matter who you’re playing right now. They don’t care if they’re playing Salisbury. They want to get to the championship. If you’ve ever been to the championship before like we have 11 times, it’s the greatest experience of your life, and there’s no other athlete in a Division III sport that gets remotely the same experience. In Division III basketball, there are 1,500 people in the gym. In Division III football, there’s 4,000 people. In Division III lacrosse, there’s 25,000. You’re treated like a pro athlete. The magnitude of it is just unbelievable, the experience. So on Sunday, we’re playing to get to that experience. That’s what it’s about right now. … Somebody from the CAC and somebody from Maryland is going to be playing a week from Sunday at [M&T Bank] Stadium, and we really want it to be the Gulls. So it’s going to be about playing well and doing the good things. There’s no payback. We want to be in the championship. That’s what it’s about right now, and that’s what it’s about for them. They’re dying to put their program on the map. They want to get there, they were knocking on the door last year, they’ve had a great season. To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. We’ve got to beat a good team on Sunday, and they know they’ve got to beat a good team. Both coaches know that their teams have got to play well."