SALISBURY, Md. - On Saturday, April 30, the Salisbury University men's lacrosse team will host York College of Pennsylvania at 3:30 p.m., for a chance to win the program's 20th Capital Athletic Conference championship. The team has made it to the CAC championship game every year it has been in the CAC, dating back to 1995.
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How we got here
The top-seeded Gulls won their way into the CAC championship game following a 14-6 victory over fourth-seeded Frostburg State University.
Frostburg held the Salisbury offense in check early, only allowing the nation's top-scoring offense five goals in the opening half. With a 5-5 score at halftime, Salisbury went on to outscore the Bobcats 9-1 in the last two quarters.
Carson Kalama paced the Sea Gulls, posting five goals and dishing out an assist. Also having strong offensive games were Nathan Blondino (one goal and four assists), Thomas Cirillo (three goals and one assist), and James Burton (three assists).
The quartet of Kalama, Blondino, Cirillo, and Burton all have over 60 points this season, led by Blondino and Cirillo's 75.
Defensively, Salisbury got stat lines of at least three groundballs and two caused turnovers from Andrew Ternahan (five groundballs and five caused turnovers), Preston Dabbs (three groundballs and two caused turnovers), Will Nowesnick (four groundballs and three caused turnovers), and Kyle Tucker (four groundballs and two caused turnovers).
Colin Reymann posted eight second-half saves en route to his third-straight double-digit save performance, stopping 10 shots for his eighth victory of the season.
How they got here
The Spartans took care of business in their semifinal matchup, beating the Captains of third-seeded Christopher Newport University, 13-8.
A low scoring game with York up 7-4 heading into the fourth quarter, the Spartans outscored the Captains, 6-4, in the final quarter to advance to the championship contest.
Dillon Hannah (three goals and one assist) and Hunter Davis (two goals and three assists) led York's offensive efforts in the win.
Billy Sasso won nine of the 16 faceoffs he took for the Spartans and led the game in groundballs with eight, while senior keeper Caleb Abney stopped 13 shots (.684 save percentage).
The Spartans have been ranked as high as fourth in the nation this season and score just over 12 goals per game, while allowing just under seven goals per game.
Andrew Gamble, Hannah, and Davis have been the go-to players in terms of scoring all season for the Spartans. Gamble leads the squad with 50 points, coming from 32 goals and 18 assists. Hannah has 28 goals and 14 assists for 42 points and Davis has a similar stat line at 28 goals and 13 assists (41 points).
Abney has been stellar between the pipes for York all season, stopping .593 percent of the shots fired his way.
The last time we met
These two teams last met on April 13, when Salisbury travelled to York and took down the then-seventh ranked squad in the nation, 17-5.
Salisbury got the first goal in the contest, but the Spartans responded soon after to make it 1-1. However, Salisbury brought the score to 6-1 by the end of the first quarter with Kalama scoring the first three goals, followed by three straight from Brady Dashiell.
At game's end, the starting attack of Kalama (five goals and one assist), Dashiell (three goals and two assists), and Blondino (two goals and three assists) all had five or more points.
Reymann had a career performance in the contest, stopping a career-high 15 shots in the conference victory.
Besides having the No. 1 national ranking, the Gulls sit at No. 1 in several statistical categories, including assists per game; the Gulls dish out an average of 11.06 assists per game, while also leading the nation in points per game at 28.17.
Burton has been the team's top play maker this season with 42 assists. This is the first time since the 2012 national championship team that the Gulls have had a 40-assist player.
Also, the team has 199 assists going into Saturday's matchup, the last time Salisbury broke the 200-assist mark in a season was that 2012 national championship team.
The winner of the championship game will receive the CAC's automatic bid into the 2016 NCAA Division III Lacrosse Tournament. The loser will have to wait to see if they can receive an at-large bid when the NCAA conducts its selection show on Sunday, May 8 at 9 p.m. The first round of the NCAA tournament is set for Wednesday, May 11.