After much delay, Salisbury defeated the Mustangs 12-4, advancing to the quarterfinal round. The game did not start until 10pm because Salisbury was stuck in traffic on the Bay Bridge coming from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Many did not think the game would take place with rumors swirling that the Sea Gulls wouldn't make it. I have to give much credit to Hall of Fame coach, Jim Berkman because he had his team focused and ready to go after sitting on a bus for 6 hours.
The Seagulls didn't waste no time putting points on the board, James Burton scoring on their second shot 96 seconds into the game. Exactly one minute after, the Mustangs would answer, Tony Rossi scoring off a pick-n-roll play, dimed by Colin Dabney
After both teams scored so quickly, I thought we were going to see a classic Stevenson-Salisbury match-up but it turned into a memorable one for all the wrong reasons.
Salisbury would bang out 3 more goals in the first quarter, all in impressive fashion. The second goal came from a great clear and fastbreak opportunity, Seagulls using less than 5 passes to get the ball down the field and into the net, Carson Kalma credited with the goal. The next two goals would come from man-up opportunities, Thomas Cirillo scoring back-to-back, finishing with a Hat Trick.
The first quarter pretty much told the story of the game. Great team Lacrosse by the Sea Gulls and sloppy play by the Mustangs. Salisbury went 4-11 in man-up opportunities thanks to the undisciplined play by the Mustangs. Mustangs committed 18 turnovers with 9:30 minutes of penalty time, which is a recipe for disaster. Because of the turnovers and penalties, Stevenson didn't get many possessions, one of the reasons why they were trailing 6-1 at halftime.
I didn't understand why coach Cantabene didn't call a timeout in that first quarter because his team definitely needed it. After the Sea Gulls went up 2-1, a timeout should have been called just to calm everyone down, especially Connor Skeen, who was in his first big game of his career. Skeen finished with 12 saves but he wasn't seeing the ball well, a few shots he should have saved went into the back of the net. Just as much as it was a poor team performance, it was a poor coaching performance also, no adjustments made after that opening 1st quarter.
Berkman proved he was the better coach Saturday night. I have seen better Salisbury teams than this one but he had this group ready. They didn't do anything special but everything was fundamental. The ball stayed in rotation, middies were cutting to the cage, and majority of their goals came from outside. The Seagulls had a solid game from up top thanks to their middies, who did a great job getting the Stevenson' defense out of position. And on the defensive end, they didn't give the Stangs any opportunities, but the Stangs helped by not moving the ball to move the defense.
Sophomore, Nathan Bloundino of Salisbury, had a great day, leading all scorers with 4 goals off 7 shots, also 1 assist.
This was a very bad game for the Mustangs not because they loss but how they loss. Talking to the alumni they all agreed that this team lacked toughness and heart which I agree with 110%. I also think that Cantabene and his staff were out-coached this game. Instead of making adjustments, they relied on their players to step up and make plays like previous Stevenson teams, but this is not that kind of team. Similar to Salisbury, they don't have that one player, or players, that could just take over a game, but unlike Salisbury, they didn't play good team lacrosse.
The program and school has come a long way but they still have a long way to go. Just because you have the big stadium and fancy cleats doesn't mean that you're the best, you still have to prove it on the field. Instead of having “practice on Monday” at Mustang Stadium, the last thing this team and fans will remember until next spring is hearing Salisbury fans chanting “SEAGULLS STADIUM!!!”