Blogs and Commentary

posted 02.17.2014 at 10.01 a.m. by Jac Coyne

NCAA Division III Men's Weekly Notebook

After all of that hard work, Jim Berkman didn't even get a live glimpse at the winning goal.

Despite goading, motivating, chastising and cajoling his Salisbury players to rebound from an early deficit and grind with an unrelenting Lynchburg team, he was looking in the wrong direction when Greg Korvin raced toward the goal and scored the overtime marker that gave the Gulls the 12-11 victory over the No. 11 Hornets on Saturday.

"The last goal of the game I didn't even see," Berkman said. "I had said something to [goalie] Alex [Taylor]. He had made a great save but, again, he came too far out of the cage. I said, 'Alex, just stay in the goal and let us get a chance to clear the ball and get our people where you want to get them.' Then Greg goes down the alley and it was one of the few times they didn't slide quickly or pre-rotate, so he got by a guy."

That's the way it will be for the Salisbury coach this year. Unlike those national championship years when Berkman could sit in a chaise lounge and drink virgin piña coladas on the sidelines while his supremely talented roster chewed up the rest of the division, each possession will be a teachable moment this season. Every detail must be accounted for and each matchup met with exactitude.

So when Berkman is asked about what kind of Rockne-esque speech he gave his players at halftime when the Gulls were down 9-5 and seemingly out of it, you can almost see his eyes roll over the phone.

"At halftime we said, 'We're going to go down fighting. We've got to come back and we've got to get one goal at a time, we can't have anybody being a hero, we have to grind it out. It'll take the whole half, but we can't beat ourselves.'"

You might as well add a, "Blah, blah, blah," at the end. Berkman's excellence over the years isn't based on emotional speeches or heartfelt pats on the back. It's coldblooded precision. It's about details. That's why he missed the final goal. He was too busy attending to the little things.

Asked why the second quarter, in which Lynchburg recorded six goals, was so different than the first frame, Berkman doesn't hesitate.

"We made three mistakes in a row off the faceoff," he said. "It's one thing to get beat, it's another to give up a fastbreak, and a third thing is doing it three times in a row. You can call it poor coaching or poor playing or whatever you want to call it, but they were gifts. To their credit, [Lynchburg] capitalized on every single one of them. We were shutting them down six-on-six, holding them to three goals, but it looked like we're getting beat pretty bad."

And Lynchburg grabbing the early lead in the second quarter off a Campbell Armstrong goal?

"If I told them No. 9 is lefthanded once, I told them 54,000 times this week," Berkman said with something nearing exasperation. "And he got two lefthanded goals getting to the middle. That was one of the two goals they got in the second half."

Berkman may have gained an appreciation for the close victories in the wake of last season. After dominating the division during the 2011 and '12 campaigns, last spring was a change of pace with numerous close games and several unlikely losses. As such, it was nice to come out on the plus side.

"We were fortunate to win today," Berkman said. "The great thing about today for our team is we got behind, but we didn't panic. We settled down and shut a team down and it gave us a chance to get back into the game. Those kinds of things give you confidence down the road. Stay the course and stay within the system and good things will come to you if you play disciplined."

And every once in a while maybe he'll get to see the game-winning goal.

Lacrosse Magazine Player of the Week

Caleb Abney, Soph., G – York
Would Abney trade this spot for one more save on Saturday night? You bet, but there is no downplaying the impact that the 6-foot-5, 245-pound netminder had in Saturday night's overtime classic between Stevenson and York. Abney finished with 22 saves against nine goals allowed (70.9 sv%) and a chance to establish himself as one of the best netminders in the country.

Honor Roll
Joe Balestrieri (Stevenson), John Bohlinger (Mary Washington), Carson Boone (Hendrix), Henri Halle (Colorado College), Kyle Henig (Washington & Jefferson), Billy Kelly (Mary Washington), Greg Korvin (Salisbury), Ryan McKay (Millsaps), Michael Morris (Sewanee), Aaron Murphy (Lynchburg), Declan O'Grady (John Carroll), Joe Wood (Washington & Lee).

Pool Duty

Yes, it's preposterously early to start thinking about what teams might be in the hunt for the five Pool B (independent) and five Pool C (at-large) bids, but this will be a running subsection in the Division III weekly notebook. It will be sheer conjecture at this point, but it should slowly coalesce over the course of the spring until we have our candidates lined up. Obviously, the Pool C list assumes a conference champion (which you'll probably be able to figure out).

Pool B
1. Sewanee (1-0)
2. Colorado College (1-1)
3. Eastern (0-0)
4. Whittier (0-0)
5. Otterbein (0-0)

Pool C
1. Washington College (0-0)
2. Lynchburg (0-1)
3. Washington & Lee (2-0)
4. Stevens (0-0)
5. York (0-1)

Slides & Rides

- So what should be the storyline coming out of Owings Mills on Saturday night? Is it Stevenson, fat and happy from a national championship, looking past York toward this coming weekend's rematch with RIT in the Carrier Dome? Or is it a York team ready to break out of Salisbury's shadow in the CAC and make a name for itself? Or is it something different?

Those will play themselves out over the course of the season, but for right now we have some certainties.

First, if the Mustangs want to roll their dice with penalties, they are going to lose. York scored four man-up goals in the second half to put Stevenson on the precipice of an upset. There's nothing wrong with playing a physical style of ball if you can pay the tithe. But the Spartans carved up Paul Cantabene's man-down unit and there are a lot more dangerous EMO units ahead on the schedule.

Second, York has to learn composure. They had this game won. The Spartans were up two goals with six minutes left and still ahead by a goal under a minute. The confident teams put that game to bed. Granted, Stevenson was the best program in the country last year, but the Spartans were better for 54 minutes and then caved. On the bright side, the poise will come. Stevenson had to find it, too.

- Last year, I thought Sewanee got a bid to the tourney out of Pool B because many of the better candidates couldn't hit the .500 mark. Whether or not that was fair, the Tigers have quickly proven they are not only a certified Pool B contestant this spring, but perhaps the best one around. That's what I'm taking from Sewanee's 14-10 dismantling of Colorado College – formerly my assumed top independent team. CC made it interesting with a six-goal fourth, but Sewanee was never really threatened. Don't be surprised if the Tigers enter the NCAA tourney with just one loss.

- The postponement of the Roanoke-St. Mary's game until Tuesday because of snow will impact the Seahawks far more than the Maroons. Roanoke still has a week until it hosts Denison. St. Mary's now has only three days to prep for Dickinson...Mary Washington beat Hampden-Sydney, 18-9. Sydney, you'll remember, beat Lynchburg last year. Impressive victory...Denison is off to a frisky start. The Big Red hung a 28-spot on Mt. St. Joseph (29-1)...Kenyon's Fritz Waine notched a hat trick in a 7-6 win over Albion.

Congrats to Brian Small and John Carroll for winning their first varsity contest. The Blue Streaks used three goals and an assist from Declan O'Grady to down Concordia (Wis.), 9-7... Millsaps 18-5 win over Fontbonne was the second largest in school history...Washington & Lee assistant Nat St. Laurent was named the first-ever head coach at Ohio Northern University. The Polar Bears won't play their first varsity season until 2016, affording St. Laurent the opportunity to finish out his duties with W&L this spring.