March 4, 2011

Weekender: Old Friends Renew Old Rivalry

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Gettysburg coach Hank Janczyk (above) and Salisbury coach Jim Berkman first met when Janczyk was a coach and Berkman a player at St. Lawrence in 1982. On Saturday, the two will meet for the 27th time in a game that has become the best inter-conference rivalry in Division III.

Prior to the men's lacrosse game between Gettysburg and Salisbury on Saturday, the coaches for the two teams will meet in front of the table and shake hands. It will be curt, as most are for consummate competitors before a big game.

But it will be an exchange representing 30 years that have shaped the face of Division III lacrosse.

It was 1982 in Canton, N.Y., when Hank Janczyk became the assistant coach at St. Lawrence and met the Saints' All-American midfielder, Jim Berkman. Janczyk was so impressed with the young firebrand, he hired Berkman to be an assistant on his staff when Janczyk became the head coach at Salisbury in 1983.

The two parted ways after the 1984 season at Salisbury when Berkman returned to his alma mater as an assistant, but just five years later they were back together again. Not as partners, but as adversaries at programs that have combined to set the standard for inter-conference rivalries – Berkman as head coach at Salisbury and Janczyk at Gettysburg.

This Saturday will mark the 27th time the two coaches have gone head-to-head on the lacrosse field, including eight meetings in the NCAA tournament. While the Sea Gulls hold a 20-6 edge overall and 6-2 mark in the postseason, the two have combined to be the face of South region. In the past 12 seasons, it has either been Salisbury (nine times) or Gettysburg (three) that has represented the South in the national championship game.

Unlike a lot of rivalries, familiarity has not bred contempt. Perhaps a nod to some of their shared roots, these two coaching stalwarts aren't hesitant to praise each other.

"He has a sound defensive philosophy and he plays great team defense," Berkman said of Janczyk. "He has good athletes and he has always been a great recruiter. He has great players at each position and they have great depth. They always play really sound defense, and they don't give up many goals. You have to grind them out to score."

"Jimmy is a good guy and his own man," said Janczyk. "He has a good confidence about himself, and all of those things have really helped him become the coach that he is."

While they have great respect for each other, they will both do everything they can to make sure their respective team wins Saturday. It will come down to the little things -- execution and focus -- because there will be no surprises. Both coaches have stayed true to their principles during their career, so there won't be any major shifts in offensive or defensive philosophies.

"I don't think we've ever seen any junk defense from him," Berkman said. "That's not his style. His style is embracing good fundamental lacrosse. Stopping someone means you slide to them early and you recover to everybody else. He has the personnel to match up on the slides and if they need to slide again, they are well-schooled and they do it again."

"They just bring new guys on board and it seems like the same old Salisbury with different faces," said Janczyk. "They're a well-coached, come-at-you team that plays defense against you as you're coming off the bus. They are very athletic and play a high-intensity level lacrosse that most people don't play. They are all over the place for 60 minutes, and you've got to be able to handle that kind of pressure while also finding their outstanding players and holding them down a little bit, too."

As the two coaches enter this game, they are in slightly different places. No. 3 Salisbury has posted its standard 4-0 record, although the narrow, 7-4 victory over Washington and Lee last week has raised some concern. No. 12 Gettysburg is 2-1 after a rare loss at home to Hampden-Sydney, and has struggled on offense.

Despite these differences, you can expect the same storyline that has held true since the first time they met.

"We play a little bit a faster than they do, or try to anyway, and we probably take a few more risks than they do, both on offense and defense," Berkman said. "We both believe in good fundamentals, we believe in being unselfish, and we both believe in team defense."

Said Janczyk: "I would agree with everything he said."

It may look like a pre-game handshake between Jim Berkman and Hank Janczyk on Saturday, but it will be the signal that the two best coaches in Division III are ready to meet once again.

Slides & Rides

- No. 2 Stevenson heads up to Long Island on Saturday for a neutral site game against Western New England in Massapequa. With the Mustangs about to embark on their four-game run against No. 11 Lynchburg, No. 5 Roanoke, No. 4 Cortland and No. 1 Tufts in as many games, it's plausible that Stevenson could look past the Golden Bears. I'm not sure if that will make a difference, honestly. WNEC will be in the Commonwealth Coast Conference hunt with Endicott, but it's difficult envisioning them winning this one.

- No. 4 Cortland should get a stiffer test this week when it hosts Union. The Red Dragons are coming off a 13-0 shutout of Widener in their opener, but should see a slightly better offense against the Dutchmen. Union is a defense-oriented team, so this won't be a great match-up for the visitors. Win or lose, the Dutchmen will use this game to gauge what they need to adjust if they want a crack at the Liberty League title.


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