SALISBURY, Md. - The Salisbury University men's lacrosse team will take on No. 2 Rochester Institute of Technology in the 2016-17 national championship game that will be played on Sunday, May 28 at 5 p.m., at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
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How we got here
Salisbury hosted No. 7 Denison University in the South Region's National Semifinal and took down the Big Red 12-11. Salisbury held a 7-4 advantage at halftime and worked that up to a 10-5 lead in the third quarter but Denison would not go quietly. The Big Red ended up making it a one-goal game at 12-11 and it took a late Aaron Leeds pickoff on a feed to the crease with less than 30 seconds to play to ice the win.
Leeds led the team with five groundballs and five caused turnovers, while Cory Berry caused four turnovers. Nick Garbarino (five goals) led the offense for Salisbury and Corey Gwin (two goals and one assist) also added multiple goals including the eventual game winner.
How they got here
The Tigers faced off with Wesleyan (Conn.) University in the North Region's National Semifinal and built a 9-2 lead after the first quarter to pull away quickly and hold on for the 22-9 win. Chad Levick (seven goals and three assists) and Ryan Lee (five goals and four assists) led the Tigers as nine players scored for the home team.
Nick Nesbitt got the start between the pipes for the Tigers and turned aside nine of the 17 shots he faced in his 50:15 in cage. Jimmy Spillane took the bulk of the draws for RIT and won 10 of the 29 he took.
Despite the lopsided score, RIT outshot Wesleyan by just one (40-39). RIT was successful on 19 of their 20 clears in the semifinal.
Scouting the Tigers
Offensively, the Tigers are scoring 17.50 goals per game while shooting .368 percent. Ryan Lee (110 points) and Chad Levick (97 points) provide the bulk of the output. In all, RIT has six players with at least 20 goals and six players with at least 15 assists.
Leading the defense, Nick Nesbitt is allowing 9.36 goals against per game and stopping .596 percent of the shots he is seeing. The team boasts a trio of players with over 40 groundballs and 25 caused turnovers in Eli Salama, Patrick Hannigan, and JD Hall. Jimmy Spillane (.526 percent), Steven Ricci (.591 percent), and Nate Farrell (.573) have all taken over 100 faceoffs this season with Spillane getting the majority of the work.
The last time we met
The national title game marks the first time that the Gulls have ever faced the Tigers. The two teams did face one mutual opponent this season in Ohio Wesleyan University. Both teams saw OWU early in the year and Salisbury got a 10-6 win at home with Colin Reymann turning aside nine shots.
The Tigers opened up their 2016-17 season against the Battling Bishops and raced out to a 5-0 advantage and locked down late to get the one-goal win, 12-11.
Shipping up to Boston
The 2017 title game will mark the Gulls' third time they have been in a title game hosted by Boston at Gillette Stadium. Salisbury is 2-0 in its previous two showdowns at Gillette. In 2008, Salisbury took down the State University of New York at Cortland 19-13 to move to 22-0 on the year, while in 2012 the Gulls again took down Cortland by a 14-10 final to complete their 23-0 perfect season.
Both times Salisbury has played in a championship game at Gillette, it came the year after a national championship winning season. There is no other venue the Gulls have completed back-to-back titles runs on more than once.
Utilizing the extra man
The Salisbury man-up unit is ranked sixth nationally, firing at a .480 percent clip. Garbarino and Carson Kalama are tied for 17th nationally with 10 man-up goals, while Adam Huber comes in at 42nd with eight tallies on the EMO. Salisbury has scored at least one man-up goal in every game this season and on six occasions have scored at least three man-up goals in a game. The Gulls' highest output on the extra man came on March 22 when they put home seven EMO tallies against Marymount (Va.) University.
Perhaps the weakest part of the Tigers is their man-down unit. Opponents have been scoring on the Tigers' man-down unit .304 percent of the time which ranks them 132 nationally of 223 teams ranked.
In last season's championship game win over Tufts University, several current Gulls played a large role in the team's 11th national title win. The current attack of Nathan Blondino (two goals and two assists), Garbarino (three goals and two assists), and Kalama (two goals and one assist) all filled up the stat sheet, while Garrett Reynolds (one goal) and Brendan Bromwell (one goal and one assist) also scored in the win.
The Gulls return their three starting defensemen from the championship game. Leeds had a huge game with six groundballs and three caused turnovers, while Will Nowesnick (four groundballs and two caused turnovers) and Kyle Tucker (two groundballs and one caused turnover) also played well. In cage, Reymann was named the game's Most Outstanding Player as he posted a then-career high 15 stops. Reymann's biggest stop came on the door step in the waning seconds of the game as he shut the door on Tufts' John Uppgren - who earlier that day was named co-national player of the year along with SU's Preston Dabbs - to secure the one-goal lead and give Salisbury the win.