Season Preview: Anticipation builds as 2012 Sea Gulls look to get back on top
SALISBURY, Md. – Coming off the 2011 national championship victory, it is back to business as usual for the 2012 Salisbury University men's lacrosse team. The program has now won an astounding nine national championships, but that does not change the goal for this season: compete for Salisbury's 10th. The team will also be looking for its 17th Capital Athletic Conference championship. The Gulls have already started out on the right foot as Salisbury has been ranked No. 1 in the Face-Off Yearbook's 2012 preseason rankings.
"Like any season here, the goal is always to win the conference and to compete for a national championship," said Salisbury Head Coach Jim Berkman, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA men's lacrosse history.
The goal may stay the same, but with the high quality of the returning players, the team has no reason to strive for anything but to get back to No. 1. On top of the returning players, Salisbury has added even more talent to give the team additional depth and skill. Berkman sees both of those elements in this year's Sea Gulls and is high on the team he has in front of him.
"We like the depth that we have on this year's team, and we like the skill level," Berkman said. "This might be the most depth we've had on offense in a long time or, at least, in the past four years … this team can be really special if everyone really pushes hard and works hard in the offseason."
This season, the Sea Gulls are returning all three of their starting attackmen from last season. Seniors Matt Cannone, Erik Krum and Tony Mendes combined for 149 goals and 72 assists to lead Salisbury's offensive attack in 2011. Krum and Cannone will serve as two of the team captains in 2012.
Cannone had his second straight season with 80 or more points as he led the team with 88 (49 goals and 39 assists) last season. He continued to show that he is one of the Sea Gulls' top offensive threats. The Bayport, N.Y. product has been on the starting attack line since his freshman season and has started 62 out of 65 career games. He looks to continue to be that constant presence on the front line in his senior season for Salisbury.
Krum had a career year in 2011 after coming back from an injury that caused him to miss the entire 2010 season. He led the trio of Salisbury attackmen in goals with 52, which was also good for second on the team.
In his first season wearing the maroon and gold, Mendes fit in perfectly with the Sea Gulls attack as both a scorer and a playmaker. He finished the season with 48 goals and 17 assists. With 2011 under his belt, his growing chemistry with Cannone and Krum on the front line will make Salisbury's attack even more lethal.
Joining the Sea Gulls this season on the attack is sophomore Rhett DePol. DePol has been away from the game for a couple of years, but he has not missed a beat with the Gulls. Berkman is impressed with what he has seen from DePol saying, "He played extremely well with Cannone and Krum this fall…he played with those two like he had been playing with them his whole life."
With his skills and the way he meshed with the returning players, Berkman sees DePol getting playing time on the first attack line this season.
Returning this season is senior Kyle Quist and junior Matt Pierotti who will see time on the second line. Pierotti is coming back after a medical redshirt last season. Quist is entering his fourth season as a Sea Gull and is coming off a solid 2011 campaign with 16 goals and 10 assists, along with, one CAC Offensive Player of the Week honor.
A mix of returning players and new players will control the Salisbury midfield this season. The line will be led by two-time team captain and last year's national championship game's Most Outstanding Player, Sam Bradman. Bradman led the team with seven goals and one assist in that game. Last season, Bradman led the team with 55 goals and was second on the team with 78 points. This is his second season as one of the team captains, and he is looking to help push the team back to where it finished last season, along with the other veteran leaders of the team.
Junior Ryan Clarke returns this season after coming on strong at the end of last season for the Gulls' title run. Clarke, who played in all 22 games, worked his way into the starting lineup for the final 11 games last season after an injury to Bradman. He finished the season with 10 goals and 12 assists, scoring six of the goals and seven of the assists in his starts. This season, he will play alongside Bradman on the team's first midfield line.
Senior Cory Nowak, one of the most versatile players on the team who can play midfield or short-stick defensive midfielder, will begin the season on the first line with Bradman and Clarke. Nowak played in all 22 games last season, registering seven goals and three assists.
Senior Jeff McGuire will head up the second line this season, looking to expand on a solid 2011 season in which over 80 percent of his shots were on goal as he scored 13 times. Joining McGuire on the opening day second line will be senior Kyle Gallagher and freshman Sean Fitzgerald.
With an abundance of depth in the midfield sophomore Greg Korvin, a transfer from UMBC, junior Eric Kluge, who is transferring from Eastern Connecticut State University, and senior Lantz Carter will all be battling for playing time on the second line.
Junior Tyler Granelli, the team's top faceoff player from last season, will be back at the X for the Gulls. Granelli won 65 percent of his faceoffs for the Gulls. He will be backed up by senior Justin Radebaugh who is also returning. Radebaugh was successful in 59 percent of his faceoffs in 2011, and gives the Gulls two strong faceoff men.
Berkman expects the two players to give Salisbury the edge in possessions from the start. He said, "Hopefully, this will be one of our strengths that is going to gain us a lot of possessions this year because those kids are older and a year better than they were last year, and they were awful dominant last year."
The Sea Gull defense is stacking up to be another deep position for the team. Senior Andrew Sellers, one of last year's long-stick midfielders, will be moving back to close defense this season, the position that he held in his first season as a Gull in 2010. Sellers caused 22 turnovers and picked up 32 groundballs last season, an improvement over 2010, and he looks to continue that success in 2011.
Senior Chad Surman is the lone starter from last season on the close defense returning from 2011. Along with Sellers, Surman will be a defensive anchor and veteran leader for the team this year. Last season he finished with 14 caused turnovers and 24 groundballs.
The close defense has multiple players who have shown that they have the ability to play on the first line and should see good playing time during the season. The team is returning sophomores Danny Sherr and Zeke Smith who both have worked hard in the offseason to get bigger and better. The team adds another athletic big body in freshman Knute Kraus. Kraus is in the mix to get a good chunk of time on the field.
Returning to the long-stick midfield position is senior Evan Hockel, another one of the team captains for 2012. Hockel will see time as both a long-stick defensive midfielder and as a wing on faceoffs. Over the past three seasons, Hockel has picked up 114 groundballs, including 38 from last season, and he also tallied a goal in 2011.
Hockel is joined by junior Brett Baer who is coming back completely healthy after being injured going into last season. Baer played in 16 games and picked up 21 groundballs with six caused turnovers. The Gulls add freshman Austin Kemp, who will give some depth to the long-stick midfield position.
In the short-stick defensive midfield, the Gulls find even more depth. The team returns seniors Dean Rossi, the fifth 2012 team captain, and Parker Dickerson. Both players saw significant minutes last season and look for much of the same this season.
The newest addition to the Sea Gull defensive midfield will be freshman Adam Stork who is pushing for minutes in 2012 as the third defensive midfielder.
There will be some new faces in the cage for the Sea Gulls this season with sophomore Alex Taylor coming out of the fall as the starting goalkeeper. Taylor saw limited action last season as he was behind two senior keepers, but in 2011, he played over 100 minutes and made 23 saves. Coming into 2012, Berkman see Taylor as the Sea Gulls' best keeper. "Alex is a very athletic goalie…if he can play like he did in the last week in fall ball, we're not going to miss a beat in the cage," Berkman said.
Second in line for the position is freshman Dan Feeney. Feeney has impressed the coaches by his play in the fall, as well. The Gulls will look to junior Mitch Meredith and freshman Connor Anderson to add depth to the position with Meredith opening the year as No. 3 on the depth chart.
The 2012 schedule puts the Sea Gulls up against four teams that made it to last season's NCAA tournament including Roanoke College, the team that SU beat in the NCAA semifinals. The schedule also contains four teams that are ranked in the Face-Off Yearbooks rankings: No. 4 Roanoke, No. 7 Stevenson University, No. 8 Lynchburg College and No. 16 Gettysburg College.
Salisbury starts off on the road on February 12 visiting Greensboro College before returning home for three straight games. The team's first game at Sea Gull Stadium is on February 18 when the Gulls host Lynchburg. Roanoke comes to town next to take on the Sea Gulls for a rematch from last year's NCAA tournament. The Gulls round out the month of February with a home game against McDaniel College.
To start March, Salisbury is right back to another opponent that was in the NCAA tournament as it travels to Gettysburg. With games against Lynchburg, Roanoke and Gettysburg right off the bat, the Gulls have good competition to begin the season. "We play three great games right away to start the season to find out where we are at," Berkman said.
The Sea Gulls return home again after Gettysburg to host Ursinus College before going on the road for three games against Ohio Wesleyan University, another NCAA tournament participant, Washington and Lee University before getting into the Capital Athletic Conference play, highlighted by the Sea Gulls' final regular-season CAC meeting with Stevenson University on April 14.
The Gulls wrap up the 2012 regular season at home with their annual War on the Shore contest with Washington (Md.) College on April 21. The Sea Gulls have defeated the Shoremen to bring home the Charles B. Clark Cup for nine straight years since 2003. The day after on April 22, the CAC tournament starts with first-round action. The tournament runs until April 28. Following that, the NCAA tournament is set to start on May 9.