SALISBURY, Md. - Salisbury University will square off against Morrisville State College to open its 2018 NCAA Division III Men's Lacrosse Tournament run and title defense under the lights at Sea Gull Stadium at 7 p.m.
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How we got here
The Sea Gulls enter the NCAA tournament with a 16-3 overall record, earning their 21st CAC title after downing No. 2 York College of Pennsylvania, 11-8, on Saturday evening in the CAC championship game. This is Salisbury's 30th straight appearance in the NCAA tournament and 36th trip overall in program history.
The Maroon and gold enter the tournament on a 10-game win streak, which has seen victories over then ranked No. 17 Christopher Newport University and No. 5 Cabrini University, as well as a perfect finish in conference play after falling to York in the first conference contest of the year.
How they got here
Morrisville State earned its fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament after claiming an 11-10 victory over Bryn Athyn College in the North Eastern Athletic Conference championship. The Mustangs were paired up with Eastern in an opening round contest at Sea Gull Stadium on Tuesday and advanced to the second round after earning an exciting 8-7 overtime win over the Eagles, which was also the programs first ever NCAA tournament win.
Morrisville State struggled out of the gate, dropping seven of its first eight contests to enter conference play at 1-7. However, the Mustangs finished the regular season on an eight game win streak and have since pushed their streak to 11 after Tuesday's opening round victory.
Scouting the Mustangs
Morrisville State has four players who have netted 20 plus goals this season led by Nick Geswaldo, who has tallied a team-best 48 goals while tallying another team-high 68 total points. Geswaldo, Brad Biggs, and Chris Dovi have been crucial to the success of the offense this season, accounting for a combined for 124 goals and 212 points.
The last time we met
Wednesday night will be the first time Salisbury and Morrisville State will have met each other in either postseason or regular season play.
Salisbury landed eight players on the All-CAC list this season with four Gulls on each the first and second team. The group is led by senior defenseman Kyle Tucker, who was named the 2018 Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Joining Tucker on the first team are fellow defensive players Will Nowesnick, Troy Miller, and Kevin Murphy.
Meanwhile, the maroon and gold representatives on the second team were majority offensive players in Corey Gwin, Garrett Reynolds, and Griffin Moroney. The group is rounded out by first-year starting goalie Brandon Warren. This is the first time each of the four players have earned all-conference accolades during their careers.
Tucker not only serves as the leader of the defense, but also as one of the four team captains. He has posted team highs in both groundballs and caused turnovers, tallying 74 and 35, respectively. Tucker also helps anchor a defense that has allowed the second-best goals against average in the conference at a mark of 7.02. His efforts on the field brought him the CAC Player of the Year accolade, making him the 16th player in program history to earn the award and first defensive player since Knute Kraus, who earned the honor back in 2015.
His efforts did not go unoticed by the next level, as Tucker earned the right to play in Major League Lacrosse. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Chesapeake Bayhawks, which are located right across the bridge in Annapolis, Maryland. Upon graduation Tucker will trade in the maroon and gold of the Sea Gulls for the blue and lime green of the Bayhawks.
Best offense is a good defense
The men's lacrosse team saw a lot of change from 2017 to 2018, including a whole new attack unit, a new goalie in cage, and an overall youth movement on the offensive side of the ball. However, the one area that remains a constant from last year's national title team to this year's team is the defense. While some players like Aaron Leeds and Pax Howard moved on, the team saw the return on Tucker, Nowesnick, Cory Berry, and Kevin Murphy.
They rank one through four on the team, respectively, in caused turnovers, combining for 110 caused turnovers while scooping up a combined 207 groundballs. The four of them have also been key contributors in anchoring a defense that has allowed a goals against average of 7.02, which ranks second in the CAC and currently ranks 24th in the nation.
Since the calendar has flipped to April, the defense has allowed no more than 10 goals in a game, surrendering a goals against average of 6.00 since April 4. In just two CAC playoff games the defense surrendered 11 goals, including holding the high flying Spartans offense, which was averaging 15.32 goals per game, to just eight.
30 for 30
Since his arrival on the Eastern Shore in 1989, Head Coach Jim Berkman has helped build a program that is among the greatest in the game of lacrosse across all divisions. Berkman has guided the Sea Gulls to the NCAA tournament in each of his 30 years at the helm. He has only suffered one defeat in the opening round of the tournament, which came back in 1989, while advancing to the next round 28-straight times.
The winner of the second-round game will go on to face the winner of the second-round matchup between CAC opponent No. 16 Christopher Newport University and Old Dominion Athletic Conference winner No. 17 Roanoke College. A game time will be determined later in the week.