May 29, 2011

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Bradman Sets Record in Salisbury's Vengeance

by Paul Krome | LaxMagazine.com | NCAA Championship Sunday Blog Replay


Salisbury junior Sam Bradman rips a jumpshot Sunday during his record-setting, seven-goal performance in the Sea Gulls' lopsided win over Tufts in the NCAA Division III men's lacrosse championship game.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

BALTIMORE – Salisbury men's lacrosse players waited 364 days for revenge. They essentially got it in less than a quarter of Sunday night's NCAA Division III championship game.

Behind a record-setting performance by junior midfielder Sam Bradman and a return to the execution that originally put the Sea Gulls on top of the game, Salisbury erased the painful memories of last year's championship game loss to Tufts in a 6-1 first quarter and routed the Jumbos, 19-7, to win their ninth national title before a paid crowd of 18,086 at M&T Bank Stadium. Bradman scored a championship game record seven goals and added an assist to win the Most Outstanding Player award and help the Gulls cap a 21-1 season in emphatic style.

"Sam's the great athlete with the box game," Salisbury head coach Jim Berkman said. "There's not too many guys that have both. But he made everyone around him better, too."

Bradman's exploits topped the six goals scored in the NCAA final by three players, most recently in 1995 by fellow Sea Gull Sean Radebaugh. Bradman's performance sparked the rout that equaled the largest margin of victory in this game's 32-year history, set in 1990 when Hobart beat Washington College, 18-6. And the Sea Gulls continued their 13-year trend of never losing to the same team consecutively in the NCAA tournament. Not since Washington College in 1996 and 1998 has a team beaten Salisbury twice in a row in the postseason.

"I just kept finding the open net," Bradman said. "This team didn't really show us the same shutoff that the other teams [in the tournament] have, and it opened up more.

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"I've been waiting three years for this. We had a tough loss last year and had to get revenge this year. It means a hell of a lot to me."

The Sea Gulls wasted no time in their bid to avenge last year's loss. Bradman, who had a forgettable performance in the 9-6 loss in the 2010 final, took a pass from Ryan Clarke in the middle of the field about 15 yards away and fired a laser past soon-to-be bewildered freshman goalie Patton Watkins just 1:42 into the game. Less than a minute later, Jeff McGuire found Matt Cannone practically uncovered on the crease for an easy finish, and then Salisbury dazzled the crowd with ball movement that was absent against Tufts in 2010. Bradman caught a pass up top and quickly crossed to Clarke, who immediately found Tony Mendes on the doorstep for a 3-0 Sea Gull lead at the 10:45 mark.

Salisbury assisted on its first four of nine first-half goals, milking the clock when not running. A forced turnover on a ride at about the 7:50 mark started more than a two-minute possession, finished off when Cannone drew a double team at goal line extended and fed Bradman up top for another rocket and a 4-1 lead. The Sea Gulls got two more goals before Tufts had a legitimate possession again, although for many of their sets, they resembled Salisbury of last year – misplaced shots and some careless passes.

Part of that was due to a resurgent Sea Gull defense. Tufts senior attackman DJ Hessler, who torched Salisbury last year and won MOP honors, found a defenseman up to the task in Salisbury senior Collin Tokosch, who's been no stranger to marking top foes.

"We put Collin on an island pretty much the whole night tonight," Berkman said. "He watched a lot of film to cut [Hessler's] angles down and cut some of his moves. He's a great defenseman. He's played against the best this year and he's gotten it done. Hessler, Jimmy Dailey (Stevenson) – he's the key to wins in those games because he's limited those great players."

Hessler still finished with five points, including an on-the-money feed to Geordie Schafter for Tufts' first goal at 9:50 of the first quarter. Hessler ducked under Tokosch for a goal to make it 6-2 in the second quarter, but he simply couldn't get the ball enough times to make the difference he did last year.

"They had some long possessions and were able to score off them," Hessler said. "We didn't have a lot of offensive possessions. They're a very athletic defense. They mixed it up and our guys up top weren't able to dodge down the sides much."

Mendes, a 2008 U.S. U19 player who's found a home at Salisbury after stops at Maryland and Syracuse, countered late in the second quarter for a 7-3 lead before another Bradman goal chased Watkins from the contest at the 6:06 mark with the Gulls up 9-3. That possession began when LSM Andrew Sellers harassed Kevin McCormick into a turnover.

"They kicked our butts on faceoffs. They kicked our butts scoring goals. They kicked our butts playing defense when they got those chances," said Tufts head coach Mike Daly. "You can't really break it down any more than that."

Hessler helped Tufts briefly close to within 10-5 with a goal and an assist, but Bradman answered with his own three-goal run to put the game out of reach. "Dodging to feed" was something Berkman wanted his players to do; it was no more evident than on Bradman's lone assist 3:36 into the final frame. He faked Sam Diss and was about to shoot when he instead fed Kyle Quist on the doorstep for an easier goal that made it 15-5.

Salisbury's 19 goals were the most yielded by Tufts since the 2008 season, and they helped Berkman win his ninth NCAA championship.

"What's special about this team is how much better they got," he said. "Our attack wasn't really good at the beginning of the year. At the end of the season, it was one of our strengths."


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