OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The No. 8 Salisbury University men's lacrosse team faced a three-hour delay to the start of its NCAA Division III tournament second-round contest against No. 7 Stevenson University after being stuck in traffic on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, but the Sea Gulls came off the bus ready to play and took a 12-4 victory at Mustang Stadium on Saturday night to advance to the NCAA quarterfinal round.
"This was a big win, an impressive effort by our boys tonight," Head Coach Jim Berkman said. "I thought that we played really composed tonight and did a great job of attacking them in the right places and taking advantage of what their defense gave us tonight."
The Sea Gulls struck first in the contest, as junior James Burton ran from left to right near the middle of the box, cut back to the left, and planted a shot into the top-left corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
Stevenson's Tony Rossi knotted the score one minute later, but Salisbury would close the half on a five-goal run.
With 9:36 left in the first quarter, the Sea Gulls found a transition opportunity, as junior Preston Dabbs ran up the right sideline and passed up to senior Sean Fitzgerald into the offensive box. Fitzgerald then found sophomore Carson Kalama for a one-on-one score on the crease with the Mustang goalkeeper.
Junior Thomas Cirillo then found the cage two-straight times in man-up situations to build a three-goal cushion at 4-1. At the 4:13 mark, Fitzgerald found Cirillo near the middle of the box for a 10-yard shot, before sophomore Nathan Blondino dished to Cirillo for a rip from the left wing just 72 seconds later.
Salisbury took the 4-1 advantage into the second quarter, quickly moving it to 5-1, as Fitzgerald dodged two Mustang defenders and drove down the middle to put away his first at the 12:54 mark of the period.
Senior Mike Kane scored the final goal of the first half with 9:33 left in the second quarter for a 6-1 halftime lead for the Gulls. After a shot from junior Christian Ottenritter, Stevenson's Connor Skeen made the save, but the ball popped up into the air. Kane then snatched the ball and redirected it into the back of the net.
Stevenson had its best chance to add its second with 7:04 to go in the half, after a Salisbury turnover in its defensive end, as Matt Tompkins had a one-on-one chance with senior Connor Anderson, but Anderson made a big save, to keep the Mustangs at one score. He made five saves in the quarter to close a strong first half.
"Connor is a good position goalie, but he has good size," Berkman said. "He's got good hands, plays his angles well, and has a good stick; he makes it a little more difficult to shoot."
At halftime, Salisbury led slightly in shots 18-16 and saves 8-5, while the Mustangs led in ground balls 16-12 and faceoffs, taking 5-of-9.
The Sea Gulls and Mustangs took the field to start the second half, but the start of the third quarter was short-lived, as Mustang Stadium went dark due to the lights being automatically set to go off at 11 p.m.
After 15-20 minutes of darkness, the disruption did not seem to bother the Gulls, as Blondino quickly scored the first goal of the second half on a rip from the left wing to put the lead at 7-1 at the 14-minute mark.
Stevenson answered just 43 seconds later with a goal, but a 3-0 run for Salisbury continued to build the lead.
Burton took advantage of another man-up chance from the left wing, before Cirillo notched his third. After a rebound, Cirillo found a ground ball on the crease for the score.
Blondino capped the run by driving left, dodging his defender, and ripping a shot from the left wing for a 10-2 advantage.
The Mustangs were able to score again, but the Sea Gulls took a 10-3 lead into the final quarter.
Salisbury continued to keep Stevenson from stringing goals together, however, as Blondino took a cross-field pass from Burton on the left wing, dodged his defender, and ripped a shot into the top-right corner 58 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Stevenson added one more goal in the fourth, but Blondino tallied his team-leading fourth to cap the scoring for Salisbury.
Blondino led the Sea Gulls with five points in the game, while Cirillo added three scores. Fitzgerald led the team with two assists.
Anderson earned the win in the cage, playing 57:20 and making 12 saves in the game.
With the win, Salisbury advances to an NCAA quarterfinal contest against No. 4 Lynchburg College on Wednesday, May 13. The game location and time will be determined; log on to www.suseagulls.com for more information, as it becomes available.