February 3, 2009

This article appeared in the January issue of Lacrosse Magazine, a US Lacrosse publication available exclusively to its members. Join today to start your monthly subscription to LM.

King Kylor

by Corey McLaughlin | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Expect more "north-south" play from Salisbury standout Kylor Berkman.
(Photo: Bryce Vickmark)

The most determined athletes always speak of tinkering with their skills each offseason — perhaps improving an ability that they already possess, or adding a new wrinkle that opponents have yet to see.

It’s how the best get better. Think of a young LeBron James mastering his outside jump shot or an aging all-star power pitcher who adds a slider to his repertoire late in his career.

Kylor Berkman, the reigning USILA Player of the Year from Salisbury and obvious choice for identical 2009 preseason honors from Lacrosse Magazine, has been working on something since he led the Sea Gulls to their second consecutive NCAA championship in May.

A few things, actually.

First, he’s stronger. Fully recovered from shoulder surgery two seasons ago, Berkman added 15 pounds of muscle.

Second, he’s faster. The extra strength gave him a noticeable speed burst during fall practices, he says.

Third, and perhaps a product of the first two, the buzz out of the Eastern Shore is to expect more “north-south” play from Berkman.

Berkman, long capable of dodging the shorts off opponents to create offense (34 goals and 49 assists in 2008), says he’s now ready to sprint past defenders to achieve the same results. He continues using his traditional elusiveness to put up spectacular numbers from the midfield.

There’s even talk of Berkman seeing time at attack this spring, which excites him enormously.

So consider this the warning: While you weren’t watching, the best got better this offseason.

“It’s going to be kind of scary, what he’s going to be able to do this season,” said Salisbury junior Mike Von Kamecke, Berkman’s running mate at midfield. “Last year he would go to the goal and make two or three moves before getting a shot off. This year, he’s got a really good first step. All through fall ball he would make a hard move and get a quick shot off.”

Says Berkman: “It’s easier when you don’t need to change direction 18 times to get by someone,” he said. “I’m really excited about what’s going to happen this season once we get going.”

The Sea Gulls, coached by Jim Berkman, Kylor’s father, open their season Feb. 15 at home against Scranton. Currently riding a 45-game win streak, the idea of winning a third straight national championship is absolutely on this team’s mind. Kylor, if everything falls into place, will be the one that leads them to that goal again.

He’s already a two-time first-team All-American and USILA Midfielder of the Year. He also was the Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Player of the Year last season, and certainly fulfilled expectations, ending his junior season as MVP of Salisbury’s 19-13 championship game victory over Cortland State.

“A lot of guys would have rested on their laurels after the season he had,” Jim Berkman said. “But he wants to be better than last year, and go out with a bang.”

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