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posted 04.26.2011 at 12.23 p.m. by Corey McLaughlin

No What Ifs — Berkman At Ease With Salisbury's AQ

The annual "War on the Shore" is about two weeks away (May 7) and emotions will be intense leading up to and during the game for Salisbury and Washington College (Md.). But for now, Salisbury coach Jim Berkman feels at ease with his Sea Gulls, who defeated then-top-ranked Stevenson Saturday to win the Capital Athletic Conference championship.

Why? The win gave Salisbury a 16-1 record and the automatic qualifying berth to the men's NCAA Division III tournament that comes with winning the CAC postseason tournament. They're in the big show. No questions asked. Pundits don't matter anymore.

"The biggest thing about today is you definitely know you're in the playoffs now, you know what I mean?" Berkman said Saturday after Salisbury's had collected their championship trophy and t-shirts, and after the Sea Gulls used an 8-0 second-half run to win, 16-14. "You don't have to sit around and be one of those at-large's, pool C bids. And even though [Stevenson is] not going to have any problems, there's always that unknown. You just hate that unknown. You don't know who is going to get upset in conference championships."

Berkman said Salisbury has been accused of having a weak schedule this season, a thought that he said would have gnawed at him had the Gulls not won at Stevenson Saturday to earn the conference AQ.

"We've gotten accused of having a weak schedule this year. You know why? If we had the same schedule right now, and the teams were the same quality that they were five or six years ago, it would be the No. 1 schedule," Berkman said, "Because Washington College would have been top 4, and Gettysburg would be ... and Roanoke. You would have said, 'Holy cow. Salisbury played everybody in the top 5 in the country.' But you can't predict that.

"Now we're getting accused on our strength of schedule, but that's out of your control," he said, "but when you don't get that automatic bid, you start thinking, what if Tufts gets upset in their tournament? What if somebody gets Cortland? What if RIT goes through and then gets beat in their tournament? And then you got all these other teams that are in the tournament that aren't supposed to be, and then you got all these teams with one or two losses thrown into a pot for six, and you're like, 'Whew.'"

Take a breath. Berkman and the Gulls are in.

And in Monday's USILA men's poll, Salisbury was ranked No. 1 in the country, albeit by a slight margin over second-ranked RIT (13-0). Tufts (12-1) is third and Stevenson (16-2) dropped to fourth.