FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The No. 1 Salisbury University men's lacrosse team capped its 2017 season with a victory in the NCAA National Championship with a 15-7 win over Rochester Institute of Technology on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
With the win, Salisbury wins its 12th national championship in program history, with the last coming last season and ends its 2017 campaign with a 22-1 record. The win sends the 2017 senior class off with their second national title as they end their careers with back-to-back championships.
"This senior class is right up there as one of the greatest classes at Salisbury," Head Coach Jim Berkman said. "They played in three championships and won two. They've now won [83 games], which is an unheard of number in the game of lacrosse."
The Tigers struck first in the championship bout, but Salisbury was able to settle in and rattle off two in a row to end the quarter. Garrett Reynolds opened the SU scoring after Kevin McDermott inverted his mark, drew the slide, and found Reynolds who stepped into a 12-yard rip that found the top-left corner. Josh Melton then doubled the Gulls' lead when there was a flag down following an RIT penalty and Melton got topside on his defender and went low-to-high to bury it under the cross bar.
McDermott ended his championship with a career-high four points, coming from one goal and three assists. Reynolds also performed exceptionally well from the second midfield with three goals, tying his season high.
The Salisbury defense came up huge in the first quarter for Salisbury. The Sea Gulls did not win a faceoff in the first quarter and RIT had its fair share of possession, but Salisbury held the nation's fourth best scoring offense to just two shots on cage and five shots attempted, including a 30-yard attempt as the quarter expired.
The Tigers got the first possession of the second quarter and after a shot clock warning was put on, National Attackman of the Year Ryan Lee had a shot on the door step that Colin Reymann went to his knees to body up and keep on the ball on the SU side of the goal line. The Gulls failed on the ensuing clear and Reymann had to make three more stops before the ball went inside the Gulls' offensive box.
Reymann ended his game with 12 saves for a .632 save percentage. Last season, Reymann was the Most Outstanding Player of the championship game with 15 saves. In national title games, Reymann now has 27 saves and boasts a .574 save percentage.
Carson Kalama rewarded his keeper on that next possession by using an inside roll that made his Tiger defender fall and let the senior take his time and beat keeper Nick Nesbitt. McDermott and Kalama went on to move the Gulls' run to 3-0 with each striking from close range, but RIT ended a scoreless streak of over 20 minutes at 7:44 to make the score 5-2.
RIT answered the Gulls' four-goal run with a three-goal run of its own, capped by a Braden Wallace goal out of an RIT timeout at 2:57. Salisbury didn't let the Tigers run the streak to four however, hitting on a play-on situation again to make the score 6-4. McDermott had the ball at X and found a cutting Reynolds who jumped up and quick-sticked the feed in while airborne. McDermott was the game's leading scorer at the break with one goal and two assists.
The 6-4 scoreline held at halftime as Salisbury held RIT to just eight shots on goal with the close defense of Will Nowesnick, Kyle Tucker, and Aaron Leeds all having standout first halves. The All-American duo on attack for RIT in Lee and Chad Levick combined for just one goal on six shots all half. Cory Berry showed his ability to put the ball on the deck in the first half with two caused turnovers and Nowesnick had a game-high three groundballs after 30 minutes.
Coming into the game Lee and Levick were the Tigers' two top options with 110 and 97 points, respectively. The Salisbury defense held the duo to just two goals on 10 shots attempted.
Nowesnick ended with five groundballs and two caused turnovers, Tucker went for five groundballs, and Leeds had four groundballs and two caused turnovers. Out of the defensive midfield, Berry added two groundballs to his three caused turnovers and Jeremiah LaClair scooped up four groundballs.
"The D played phenomenal as they do game in and game out," Reymann said. "We played RIT's pick and slip offense very well and I expected nothing else from those guys."
Melton opened up the second half scoring just over two minutes in, dodging from X to his right and turning the corner to bury the off-handed shot and move the SU lead to three at 7-4. The Tigers responded soon after but Nick Garbarino got in on the action with a goal on the fast break after Brendan Bromwell raced down field off a caused turnover to find Kalama who saw Garbarino wide open on the crease to bury his first shot of the game.
Just as Garbarino was held in check early, so was National Player of the Year, Nathan Blondino. Blondino got his first point of the day by finding Kalama off the crease on the man up to put his side up 9-5. Kalama caught the feed seven yards out from the cage with his back to the keeper but turned on a dime and went low-to-high for his third of the game.
Blondino finished with three points from one goal and two assists to move his season total to 134. The 134 points ties him with Jason Coffman for the most all time in a season for Salisbury.
Another deep Reynolds strike from a McDermott dish had SU ahead 10-5 and RIT scored at 1:59 of the third to make it 10-6. However just as the Tigers answered, on the en suing faceoff Andrew Ternahan carried the ball downfield and turned down an open shot to find T.J. Logue who put it past Nesbitt from 10 yards. Melton would close the scoring in the quarter with his third goal to post his first career hat trick.
Ternahan also put up four groundballs and had an outstanding day defensively as the newly minted Long Pole of the Year award winner.
RIT started the fourth quarter scoring and won the next draw and had a chance to put home another but a diving check from Berry right before the Tigers' player shot dislodged the ball and started a fast break that ended with a 25-yard pass from Leeds to Kalama on the doorstep for the goal to put Salisbury up 13-7.
The big Berry play proved critical as it took away any shot for the Tigers to shift the momentum in their favor late. Salisbury ended with two late goals from Blondino and Bromwell to seal the Gulls' 12th title in program history.
At the conclusion of the contest, Kalama was named the championship's Most Outstanding Player. With five points from his four goals and one assist, Kalama was the game's leading scorer.
"I think on the offensive end we were really able to capitalize when we needed. We were just able to execute our plays and exploit what the RIT defense was doing," Kalama said.
Salisbury dominated every major statistical category in the game, including shots (42-34), groundballs (44-26), and fewer turnovers (10-15). Another big theme in the game was the penalties. RIT gave SU six man-up opportunities and the Gulls hit on two of them. Salisbury did not commit a penalty all game and ends its season having scored a man-up tally in all 23 games.
The title is the 20th team national championship in Salisbury University history.