BALTIMORE – The No. 2 Salisbury University men’s lacrosse team fell on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in the NCAA Division III national championship game, 12-9, to No. 6 Tufts University, marking only the second time in seven trips that the Sea Gulls have dropped a championship game in Baltimore.
“We fought to the bitter end and had a couple opportunities in the fourth quarter to close the game down to a one-goal game, which we didn’t quite get,” Head Coach Jim Berkman said. “We had an outstanding season. The quality schedule that we played and the number of top-ranked opponents that we won against has been a testament to the great kids and great leadership that we’ve had this season.”
Tufts jumped out to an early 1-0 lead with a goal from Peter Gill, 55 seconds into the game, but the Sea Gulls answered with a 3-0 run to end the first quarter.
Senior midfielder Greg Korvin netted the Gulls’ first goal, curling around the left side of the crease and planting a high shot in the cage, before assisting junior midfielder Sean Fitzgerald 45 seconds later; Fitzgerald ripped a high shot driving left to give SU its first lead, 2-1.
Salisbury took the 3-1 lead into the second quarter, as sophomore midfielder Thomas Cirillo took a pass from senior midfielder Brandon Kendrick and found the cage from 12 yards out on the right wing.
Less than five minutes into the second quarter, senior attackman Luke Phipps dodged his defender and ran to the crease from the right side to score his first and increase the lead to three goals.
The Jumbos used a 2-0 run to cut the lead to 4-3, but senior attackman Rhett DePol scored on a fastbreak goal to regain a two-goal lead, 5-3. DePol took a pass from junior attackman Mike Kane and put away his first on the crease.
Another 2-0 Tufts run tied the game, 5-5, as the teams would take that score into halftime. At the break, Salisbury held a slight lead in shots, 23-21, and ground balls, 16-15, while Tufts won more faceoffs, 7-of-12.
The Jumbos came out of the half with two quick goals in the first five minutes to break the tie, 7-5, with both coming from Ben Andreycak.
Senior midfielder Donovan Lange ripped a low shot from 15 yards to cut the lead to one, but Tufts answered with five-straight goals, outscoring the Sea Gulls, 7-1, in the third quarter.
Trailing 12-6 at the start of the fourth, Salisbury began its comeback attempt, as Lange netted his second just over one minute into the quarter, hitting from the right wing.
Kane scored on the crease on a pass from Phipps just over two minutes later, bringing the Gulls within four goals with 11:36 to play.
Salisbury was unable to complete the comeback, with its final goal coming from Fitzgerald at the 6:52 mark of the fourth.
Senior goalkeeper Alex Taylor played all 60 minutes in the cage, making nine saves in the game.
Playing in its final game, Salisbury’s senior class amassed an 82-9 overall record, while advancing to four NCAA tournaments and three national championship games, winning two.
“I am very proud of our seniors…those guys all refocused our group last year and just had a great run,” Berkman said. “I can honestly say this was one of my most enjoyable years coaching ever.”