Dickinson, the top seed in the South region, will make only its second appearance in a NCAA tournament quarterfinal when Salisbury visits Carlisle, Pa., on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Sea Gulls, a 10-time national champion, will play in their 16th consecutive quarterfinal.
Advantage, Salisbury? Coach Jim Berkman declined to declare that, but he did agree that the tension and pressure is turned up as a team advances deeper into the postseason.
“Being at this point, there is more at stake, there is more tension, there is more urgency into the game,” Berkman said Monday. “It’s not your normal regular-season game. The approach, the intensity, the nervousness – all of those things kind of come into play here when you get to this point.”
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The Sea Gulls (16-5) and Red Devils (18-0) have met just once in the NCAA tournament, but that was Dickinson’s lone quarterfinal appearance in 2011 when Salisbury cruised to a 12-4 victory.
But Berkman pointed out that this is a much different Red Devils squad. They have defeated four NCAA tournament qualifiers in Roanoke, Washington College, St. Mary;s and Colorado College and perhaps more impressively, they are 4-0 in one-goal decisions and 6-0 in two-goal games.
“They’ve seized the moment several times,” Berkman said. “They’ve been opportunistic in those situations. That’s critical to a great season. When those times come, that separates the great season from a good season. … Now it’s getting down to the nitty-gritty. Some teams haven’t been down this way before. How they’re going to play at the end of these games is yet to be seen.”
Salisbury is aiming to capture its third straight NCAA crown. While the current team may not have the starpower or ammunition that previous Sea Gulls incarnations boasted, they can lean on their background in the NCAA tournament.
“There is a lot of pressure when we get down to the Final Four,” Berkman said. “How you deal with that pressure, the decisions that are made are going to determine the outcome. There’s a lot to be said on how those decisions are made based on if you’ve been there before.”