Now that Salisbury secured one of the few coveted at-large berths in the NCAA tournament, Jim Berkman feels secure enough to stand on a limb and proclaim that the team can win the national championship for the third consecutive year and the 11th time in the program’s history.
Sounds crazy? Maybe, but aside from SUNY-Cortland, the top seed in the North region, and Dickinson, the top seed in the South, no other team in the field has less than two losses.
“The crazy thing about this is, I really believe that we can still win the whole tournament,” the Sea Gulls coach said Monday morning. “I truly believe that we’re good enough that if we get good goalie play and get a break here or there, with the way this year has played out and the teams that are in the tournament, I really believe that we can still win. I just think the teams are that even this year. I don’t think there’s any team that you can say, ‘Man.’ Every team you look at has had four or five one-goal games. and other than Cortland and Dickinson, which escaped a couple of those, everybody else has dropped a couple of those games. Obviously, there’s a lot of good teams, but when teams are that close and you’re winning games by one goal, on any given day, a hot goalie and a break here or a break there, things can go the other way.”
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If Salisbury intends to make good on Berkman’s prediction, the players must play better than they did in Sunday’s 13-11 loss to St. Mary’s in the final of the Capital Athletic Conference tournament. The loss prevented the team from capturing its 18th championship and third in a row.
So the Sea Gulls had to wait nervously on Sunday night to find out whether they had earned their 25th straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.
“Going into last night, I was hoping that we were going to get it, but by the same token, if we hadn’t gotten it, I don’t think I would have been surprised because I think it comes down to a little bit of a power ranking or maybe we had a couple more in-region wins than other teams,” Berkman said. “It was that close with so many teams, and three of the teams that had beaten us were teams that had gotten in – Washington and [Washington and Lee] and Lynchburg – and they were all one-goal games.”
Salisbury will open the first round with a contest against Susquehanna (12-6), which captured the Landmark Conference crown, on Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Sea Gull Stadium in Salisbury.