May 23, 2014

Glory Days: Division III Changing of the Guard

As told to Paul Ohanian | | Twitter

"We played with a chip on our shoulder the whole 1994 season," Salisbury goalie Erik Miller said, after losing to Washington in the 1993 national semifinals. (Salisbury)

Lacrosse Magazine gathered stories of NCAA tournament lore, straight from the mouths of champions, as part of our May 2014 edition. Extended versions appear here. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 415,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

Salisbury 15, Hobart 9
Byrd Stadium, College Park, Md.

Salisbury's first Division III men's national title came over Hobart, the team that had won 13 of the previous 14 since the NCAA D-III title was first contested in 1980 — and a program that was headed to Division I the next season in 1995.

The Sea Gulls have won nine more NCAA championships since the changing of dynasties under Hall of Fame coach Jim Berkman, the NCAA's all-time winningest coach. Goalie Erik Miller was named finals MVP. in 1994.

Jim Berkman

I thought beating Hobart was really big at the time because nobody had really been able to do it. Their program was a real juggernaut, so beating them made our first championship that much more rewarding and legitimate. We knew that it was our last shot at Hobart, but we only discussed that a little bit with the players. We just talked about seizing the moment. Now, 20 years later, we still take pride in what we did and lacrosse people know the importance, but most kids don't really remember or know much about Hobart's era of dominance. They don't remember that Hobart used to play D-I teams like Syracuse, Cornell and Duke. In fact, they had already beaten Duke, Colgate and Cornell during that season.

Cabell Maddox was Hobart's big star that year, but he had been hurt and came back in the postseason. We had a defenseman, Tom McAuliffe, who really played a physical game against Cabell and limited his opportunities that afternoon. Erik Miller had a great game in goal for us and was the MVP, and Jake Bergey, who was a freshman, emerged as a star by scoring five goals. In fact, nine of our 15 goals in that game were scored by players from Pennsylvania, which is interesting because Pennsylvania lacrosse 20 years ago wasn't what it is now.

Erik Miller

We had a very cohesive team, and many of us still see each other and talk quite a bit. We all say, now, that we're glad we won that game against Hobart, but at the time, we didn't really think about that. We just thought that we were the best team and that we wanted to finish as undefeated champions. After having been upset by Washington in the semifinals the previous year, we played with a chip on our shoulder the whole 1994 season. We went to Nazareth in midseason when they were ranked number one and we beat them 21-2. That was our defining moment. After that, we felt like it was our time. We certainly respected Hobart because of their history and what they had built, but we knew that we had the weapons that could match them.

Jason Coffman was our star on attack, but he didn't have a big day scoring. But I had never seen Jason ride the way he did that day. He caused a number of turnovers with his defense. That was the mark of that team. Guys would do whatever they could to help the cause. We knew that we had to match Hobart's composure, and we came out and scored just 38 seconds into the game. We felt that it was our stage.

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