We applaud the Seagull's past record under Coach Jim Berkman – the current leader for wins in college lacrosse – and the many exciting games that they have had in Seagull Stadium. This year, however, it seems fitting that the team is rebuilding as the stadium is being rebuilt and greatly improved.
To date, the Gulls are at 500, having beaten two patsies by double digits, both here, but fared poorly against two stronger teams that they usually beat. On Valentine's Day they lost to Lynchburg there (7-12). Now Lynchburg is no slouch – last year they took the Gulls to overtime before losing here (11-12) at the same point in the season – and is currently ranked in the top 10 in the NCAA’s Division III. More telling and disturbing is the Gull's latest loss, here, to Gettysburg (12-6) - an unranked team they beat by that very score, there, last year. The game began and ended in blow-out mode, with somewhat better play by the Gulls in between that avoided a real embarrassment.
Reports by those who attended the Gettysburg game are that Salisbury is noticeably weaker at all positions vis-à-vis the opponent compared to other years under Coach Beckman. In large part, we believe that this is due to the overall improvement in Division III men's lacrosse as a result of the huge growth in high school lacrosse in recent years – in the past 20 years it has increased from about 500 to 2500 high schools.
Consequently, there are more quality players at all collegiate levels, and some who formerly would have been recruited by scholarships at prestigious Division I schools (Syracuse, the Ivy League members, Johns Hopkins, Duke, Virginia, etc.) now attend Division III institutions like Lynchburg and Gettysburg, not just Salisbury. Tufts, which has beaten the Gulls in recent years in the NCAA championship game (most reently, 2014), is a prime example of the increase in the quality of Division III lacrosse.
Looking to the rest of the season, it's questionable if the Gulls will get to the NCAA playoffs – and, if they do, that they are more than one and done. But there should be some exciting games at Seagull Stadium, including against teams in the Gull's conference (Capital) that they usually beat, some of which are ranked this year. The best games should be against Ohio Wesleyan (March 8), Hampden-Sydney (March 11), Mary Washington (March 21), Stevenson (March 25), Christopher Newport (April 8), and York (April 15). The toughest road games are probably at Cabrini (March 18), Wesley (April 1) and Frostburg State (April 11). If the Gulls win half of those games they should have a winning season given the other, weaker teams on their schedule.
The annual contest with Washington College, on April 18 in Chestertown this year, could be the "snore on the Shore" – the "Shoremen" are 0 and 2 so far, having lost to York and Washington & Lee.
It's certainly possible that Coach Berkman can work his magic, and some key players who have been sidelined by injury may soon be back in action, but there are concerns. The biggest problems may be the face-off and goalie positions as well as the entire defense. And then there's the reality that many of the opponents relish the chance to beat the Seagulls for a change and may smell blood after their surprisingly poor start this year, especially if the Gulls lose to Ohio Wesleyan, a ranked team, on March 8 at Seagull Studium.That game could determine whether the Gulls make the NCAA tournament by its effect on the future games.
Another surprise this year is Jim Berkman's public criticism of the performance of certain players, which has been reported in certain local mainstream media. That may be a symptom of frustration caused by the sea change in college lacrosse mentioned above. Simply put, the rest of Division III has caught up to Salisbury University. It may not have any more unbeaten seasons.
Hopefully, next year's team will match the quality of the new Seagull Stadium in which it will be playing if construction goes according to schedule.