Salisbury has represented the pinnacle of success in division three athletics; their resume of championships is long, extensive and well noted within the program. The Sea Gulls fell into an unusual funk in the middle of 2009, dropping three of four games, two of which were in-conference contests. Stevenson will be a consistent challenge for the Gulls down the road, and they will push this Salisbury team in defending their CAC title.
The 2010 team features depth and experience at every position, they are well positioned to take another run at a national title. Coach Jim Berkman has been pleased with effort he's seen out of the team, they've been working hard to redeem a sub-par performance by improving themselves individually, and then as team.
The snow has kept Salisbury indoors, limiting their full field abilities and keeping them in 6v6 scenarios. They already had a successful 19-6 outing against Greensboro and were successful on 24-of-25 clears, which would have been an area of concern given the restricted practice.
Salisbury brings back all three starters from a year ago. Berkman said this unit showed signs of their inexperience last season, but they come in as an improved attack that should play closer to their potential. A clutch attack is at the heart of the potent Sea Gull transition game, a fast midfield needs consistent scorers to finish off odd-man breaks to build momentum.
Sophomore Matt Cannone (53,14) comes back ten pounds lighter and should be better off the dodge. Berkman said he's quicker around the cage and has improved his feeding ability, he was an All American last year as a freshman. Senior Jake DeLillo (35,17) has also improved over the off-season, working on a more consistent shot that will improve his range and stretch defenses to the wing.
Senior Mike Winter (48,6) will play inside and establish himself as a presence on the crease. Freshman Eric Law is lighting fast coming from X, he's pushing for time as the forth attackman, but Berkman wants him on the field and will slip him into the second midfield. Even if Law comes in as a midfielder, he will likely dodge from an attackman's spot, pushing Winter upfield.
Junior Erik Krum (19,3), who saw consistent minutes last season, will redshirt with a knee injury.
Senior Mike Von Kemecke (27,17) is back to lead the midfield. Kemecke is great down the wings and shooting at tough angles, he's quick off his split dodge and should repeat as an All American. Junior Shawn Zordani (10,9) is a converted attackman who handles pressure well, he works as a hinge piece in the offense and contributes to the chemistry of the offense,.
Sophomore Sam Bradman (17,24) may have more upside than any returning Sea Gull, he had a big freshman year on the first line and looks more comfortable in the offense. The departure of Kylor Berkman opens up a lot of touches and he's eager to take a bigger role.
His speed presents big match-up concerns for defenses (a Salisbury trademark); Bradman can get his hands free on a short stick and get off a quality shot every time. Poling Bradman means a short stick has to handle Von Kemecke, who isn't as quick as Bradman, but his shot accuracy down the lane pressures the slide to go, opening it up for Winter.
Freshman Alex Nieves and sophomore Tim Lum are looking for time on the second midfield. Nieves is a strong north-south dodger and Lum can shoot hard with either hand. Juniors Logan Keyser and Kyle Piper are also competing for time on the second unit.
Highly touted recruit and transfer, Tony Mendes, formerly of Maryland and Syracuse, is not eligible this season, but Berkman hopes to get him on the field next spring.
Salisbury brings back a lot of experience on the defensive side of the field. Senior captain Jeff Breeding (30GB) will lead the unit. Junior Collin Tokosch (36GB) also returns as a starter. The third spot is currently being filled by junior Nick Mooney. Freshman Brett Baer is pushing him for time as well.
Senior Connor Burgasser (54GB) is back as the team's long stick midfielder. He's great off the wing and can get the ball on the ground. He's a veteran presence that's faced a lot of good midfielders over the years. Andrew Sellers will likely back him up as the No. 2.
Seniors Will Poletis and Kevin Fin will run as the short stick defensive midfielders. They are both fast and good in transition. They will look to push the tempo. They will have junior Johnny Rodriguez back in net, he saved 56% of the shots he faced last season.
Berkman thinks this unit returns with improved stick handling and of course, more experience. Most importantly, he has improved depth that will allow his defense to push his offense in practice, as well as giving them flexibility in their aggressiveness.
GAMES TO WATCH
The Sea Gulls have a great schedule in 2010. They face defending national champion Cortland on 3/10 in Haverford, Pa. These teams had met in three straight national championship games and it's a great addition to the regular season schedule.
Salisbury will travel to Gettysburg on 3/27. The stands are always packed and it's a lively environment. The Bullets pivoted their season upwards with a big upset at Salisbury last year, while the Gulls went on to drop two out of the next three.
In another tough road game, Salisbury travels to Stevenson on 4/3. This could be a preview of the CAC championship game . Stevenson beat Salisbury twice, but the Gulls did take their fifteenth straight CAC championship.
The War on the Shore vs. Washington College is on 5/8. It's a D III classic.