The Sea Gulls are back on top.
On Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field, the Salisbury University men’s lacrosse team won its 11th national championship game in program history as it defeated Tufts University, 14-13.
The win comes five years to the date that Salisbury beat Tufts in the 2011 championship game.
With the win, the Sea Gull are back on top of the Division III men’s lacrosse world and the win vaults Head Coach Jim Berkman into sole possession of the top spot in NCAA men’s lacrosse history for championship victories.
“It has been a tremendous year, 24 games, we’ve lost by one goal, and were fortunate enough to win by one today” Berkman said, “it was a great team effort and I am very proud of this senior class that’s done a great job of motivating our guys to put us in a position to win our 11th championship.”
Finishing the season with a 23-1 record, the 23 wins ties the 2007 and 2012 national championship teams as the program record for wins in a season.
A game of runs throughout, Salisbury was able to outlast Tufts and use a crucial save as time was winding down in the last quarter to come out on top.
The Jumbos going things going in the rematch of the 2014 national championship game, getting goals just 33 seconds apart, starting with 12:54 remaining in the opening quarter to get the early advantage.
Nick Garbarino started off his stellar championship performance by tacking on Salisbury’s first goal of the game. The Gulls got the Jumbo’s defense to slide to a dodging James Burton, who pushed it behind to Nathan Blondino. Blondino pushed the opposite side with his left hand before passing it cross crease to Garbarino who finished with a quick stick to cut the Tufts’ lead in half.
Garbarino and Burton ended the day with identical three goal, two assists stat lines.
Tufts added its third tally, coming from Jake Gillespie, before Salisbury would tack on three in a row to end the quarter.
The first in the run came as Garrett Reynolds chased down a groundball near the sideline, level with goal line extended, before getting a head of steam and going straight to the net, blowing past his defender and taking a hit on the crease to finish.
With the clock getting low in the first and a shot clock timer on for the Gulls, Brendan Bromwell saw the Tufts defense was giving him space, so he stepped in and made them pay from 14 yards with 46 seconds left in the half.
As it looked like time was going to expire in the opening stanza, Burton dodged hard down the left alley before ripping a pass across the offensive zone where senior captain Thomas Cirillo was waiting. Cirillo wasted no time and let it go, scorching the top-right corner as the clock read “00:00” to put the Gulls up 4-3 going into the second.
Austin Carbone scored first in the second quarter, but Salisbury went right into the game’s biggest scoring run.
Following Carbone’s tally, Salisbury went on an eight-goal run over the next 20:16 minutes.
In the 8-0 run, Carson Kalama, Burton, Garbarino, and Blondino each added two goals to put Salisbury up, 12-4.
The highlight of the stretch in the second quarter was at the end of the period as Salisbury struck again with the clock reading 00:00. Garbarino dodged hard from behind the cage to his right and dished it Blondino, who in one motion caught the ball and ripped an underhand shot under the cross bar to send the Gulls into the locker for halftime up 9-4.
The goal was Blondino’s 100th point of the season, as he also assisted on two tallies earlier in the game and ended the championship with two goals and two assists.
Going into the third, Salisbury kept rolling. After a Burton goal, Tufts got possession and Zach Richman had an open look on the door step that he tried to fake low and go high, but Colin Reymann exploded up from his low stance and stuffed the Jumbo look.
The defense started offense as on the ensuing possession, Blondino got one. Kalama received a feed and had an open look with a good angle from 10 yard, but he hesitated so Blondino could circle around from behind the net and get a quick catch and score.
The 8-0 run against Tufts is the biggest they have conceded all season, with the last time someone put up eight in a row coming during the 2014 season.
But it was a game of runs.
Gillespie scored the game’s 17th goal with 7:11 left in the third to spark a 7-0 run for the Jumbos that ended with a John Uppgren tally with 13:09 left in the fourth, before the Gulls went to its senior midfielders to close it out.
Newly minted national midfielder of the year, Cirillo addressed the elephant in the room and put a stop to the Tufts run, going low to low on the man up and putting it through the keepers legs to get a 13-11 lead.
With 10:25 left, Tufts responded, going back to Uppgren, but Salisbury was able to respond again.
With Tufts winning a high percentage of its faceoffs down the stretch, and with a minuscule lead, Salisbury opted to slow the pace on offense. With a shot clock timer on, Burton dodged down the right alley and his shot hit off the keeper and found twine to go back up by two.
Following a long possession for Tufts with less than four minutes remaining, Reymann made a big stop, but Richman was there to scoop and score on the ensuing rebound to make it a one-goal game.
Tufts won the draw following Richman’s goal and had around three minutes to notch the equalizer.
With Salisbury, gaining possession back, the Gulls failed a clear low in their defensive zone but just as it looked as Richman was going to come in one-on-zero on Reymann, Hunter Schaeffer hustled back and caused a turnover to get Salisbury possession back.
Opting to slow the pace again, Salisbury turned the ball over via a shot clock violation with 45 seconds left. Tufts cleared the ball and got a timeout with 34 seconds with the game on the line.
Uppgren drove down the left alley on a sweep and pushed it forward to an attackman behind the net. Uppgren circled back up field to gain depth on his cut and went back towards the net where he caught the feed and released a quick shot to the low right side of the net from just off the crease.
In excellent position, Reymann got a piece of the ball with his body, corralled the groundball, and threw it into the Philadelphia night with five second left and by the time the ball got back to the turf, the Gulls bench emptied as the 2016 NCAA Division III men’s lacrosse champions.
“I think it was more of a reactionary save,” Reymann said. “Next I knew the ball was in my stick. Looked up at the clock, five seconds left, dumped it down field and that was that.”
Reymann ended the day tied for a career high in saves with 15 and was named the championship games most outstanding player.