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Salisbury 19, Tufts 7 | NCAA Division 3 Lacrosse Final

Salisbury routs Tufts for title

By Alex Prewitt
Globe Correspondent / May 30, 2011

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BALTIMORE — For a team nicknamed the Jumbos, the Tufts men’s lacrosse team was decidedly dwarfed last night.

The defending Division 3 national champions appeared overmatched against a Salisbury (Md.) squad hungry to avenge last season’s 9-6 loss to the Jumbos in the NCAA title game. In front of 18,086 under the lights at M&T Bank Stadium, the Sea Gulls simply flew too high for Tufts, which fell behind by five goals at the end of the first quarter and never recovered, losing, 19-7.

In 2010, the Jumbos shocked the Sea Gulls, jumping out to a 6-1 lead after the first quarter to secure the school’s first NCAA team national championship.

This time, it was Salisbury’s time to shine early.

The Sea Gulls scored three goals in the first 4:15 to flip the script on the Jumbos, surging to their five-goal lead after the first quarter to put an end to Tufts’s repeat bid, and earn the school’s ninth national championship.

Junior midfielder Sam Bradman had seven goals, a Division 3 championship game record.

“They made more plays on faceoffs, more plays on offense, and more plays on defense,’’ Tufts coach Mike Daly said. “They got out to the 6-1 lead and we could just never, ever mount any serious attempt back into it, because they just kept making plays the whole night.’’

Tufts showed flashes of a second-quarter comeback when senior attackman D.J. Hessler and junior midfielder Kevin McCormick scored consecutive goals in less than a minute, but a three-goal run by the Sea Gulls, their third of the first half, put Salisbury up, 9-3, heading into the break.

Even a first-half change at goalie from freshman Patton Watkins to junior Steven Foglietta did little to stop Salisbury, which put together four stretches of at least three goals against a Jumbos’ defensive unit that held the Sea Gulls to a season-low six goals in 2010’s title game.

Junior attackman Tony Mendes finished with four goals and classmate Matt Cannone, the Sea Gulls’ leader in points and assists, had a pair of goals and assists.

“I don’t think it really mattered what we did last year,’’ said Hessler, 2010’s Most Outstanding Player, who had two goals and three assists, breaking his own school season points record in the process. “They deserved it. They beat us. If they’re going to keep scoring, we have to stop them. There’s no reason to have mercy on us.’’

Ryan Molloy, McCormick, and Sean Kirwan, Tufts’s top three goal scorers, were held to just four goals on 10 shots. Kirwan’s tally, which came with Tufts already down by double digits early in the fourth quarter, extended his school record for goals in a season to 66.

“If you watch film of [Tufts], they just generate shots in unorthodox ways that you got to be ready to defend,’’ said Salisbury coach Jim Berkman, who won his sixth national title in nine years. “We did a good job of limiting those opportunities today.’’

There was little to celebrate for Tufts. The 19 goals allowed were the most for the Jumbos since a 20-8 loss at Roanoke March 18, 2008, and the 12-goal margin of defeat was the largest ever in an NCAA Div. 3 championship game.

Still, Daly is confident that, like the Sea Gulls, his Jumbos will use the loss as motivation to return to the title game for a third consecutive season, when nearby Gillette Stadium will host the NCAA championships.

“We’ve got to take our medicine today,’’ Daly said. “But we’ll be back. We’re not a fragile bunch.’’