Roanoke at Salisbury: Three things to watch
The NCAA Division III tournament semifinal between Roanoke and Salisbury is the second meeting this season between these teams. The Sea Gulls (19-1), ranked No. 1 in the most recent United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll, is seeking their 10th trip in 13 years to the championship game. The No. 7 Maroons (17-3) have won 12 straight contests and are looking for their first berth in the NCAA final since 1992. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Sea Gull Stadium in Salisbury on Sunday.
1) Clamp down on Roanoke’s Big 3 (again). As mentioned in the blog on Wednesday, the Maroons finished the regular season with the third-most prolific offense in the country, and the unit has increased its 16.2 goals-per-game average to 17.7 in the postseason. But their top three scorers – junior attackman Jeff Keating, sophomore attackman Richard Lachlan and sophomore midfielder Mike Hayden – were shut out in the 10-7 loss to Salisbury on March 23. Sea Gulls coach Jim Berkman didn’t want to tip his hand on whether the defense would copy that strategy for Sunday’s meeting. “I don’t know if we’re tweaking anything, but we’ve had different packages in depending on what the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses are,” he said. “Obviously, they have a great midfield line. So the match-ups are going to be a little bit different than if we were playing a team that had a great attack. We’ve got to negate that first midfield line from having a day like they’ve had against other teams.”
2) Solve Roanoke’s wunderkind goalie. The Maroons’ 12-game winning streak has coincided with the team’s decision to go with freshman Charles Pease as the starting goalkeeper. The rookie has not disappointed, especially in the NCAA tournament where he has made 50 saves and allowed 26 goals in three contests for a .658 save percentage. Pease, who made a career-high 22 saves in Roanoke’s 13-12 decision over No. 3 Stevenson on Wednesday, has caught Berkman’s attention. “They’re playing the goalie full-time now,” he said. “They were splitting the goalie before [between Pease and sophomore Mike Hardon]. The goalie now is a solid goalie. That was a big change from what they had done when they played us before.”
3) Value possessions by winning faceoffs. Coaches have frequently said that one part of the equation in keeping a potent offense on ice is keeping that unit from touching the ball. One avenue towards that goal is winning faceoffs. Salisbury owned Roanoke on draws with sophomore Tyler Granelli going 11-of-12 and freshman Chris Turner contributing 5-of-8 wins. Replicating that effort would be a huge benefit for the Sea Gulls, Berkman acknowledged. “I don’t know if we’ll get them as good as we did last time,” he said. “Last time, our guy pretty much dominated them. We’d sure like that to happen though. It means more possessions, but [Maroons senior Justin] Tuma’s a great player. He’s just a great all-around player. He finds a way to win some even if he doesn’t win them because of his effort and stick skills. We would hope – as we have in a majority of games this year – that we would have a little bit of an advantage at the X.”