Normally you’ve got some monster D1 match up, and it more than qualifies as the best game of the weekend, but this weekend? This weekend is different, and there is a different college level of lacrosse you need to watch.
It’s almost Salisbury – Stevenson time, and if you’re a fan of D3 lacrosse, you know what this means. If you’re not a fan of D3 lacrosse, you’re about to find out. I’ll keep the intro brief, but it will give you a good idea of what’s going on here.
For as long as anyone under 35 can remember, Salisbury has been the best team in NCAA D3 lacrosse. I’m a Northern guy, and I know all about Cortland, Middlebury, RIT, and Tufts. Please, just save it. The Gulls have won 10 of the last 20 national titles. They made it to the Finals 3 more times. All Americans? Dear God, they have so many. CAC titles? From 1995 to 2009, SU never lost one.
Salisbury is a program of living legend, and the eternal question was always, “who is going to step up and consistently stand toe to toe with the monster?”
For a while it looked like Gettysburg might be the one, but they didn’t maintain the same level as consistently, and the geographic and conference distances didn’t help. Roanoke rose and fell, as did Lynchburg and Dickinson. Cabrini is still trying to make the jump today… But about 10 years ago, a little school in Maryland named Villa Julie hired a new coach in Paul Cantabene. Then they renamed themselves Stevenson in 2009, and a new David was on the scene, with Goliath in wait.
In the early years, Salisbury was the heavy favorite, but the margins kept closing. In 2010, Stevenson took their first CAC title. In 2011, Salisbury won it back. In 2011 the Gulls also won a national title, and they repeated in 2012. The only team to beat Salisbury in 2011? Stevenson. In 2012, Salisbury went 23-0, and had only one game decided by less than 3 goals. That game was an 11-10 win over Stevenson.
And then in 2013, the budding rivalry took another turn, as the Mustangs won their first national title and defeated Salisbury twice during the year, 10-8 and 12-6, with the second win coming in the national semifinals, which Stevenson hosted.
These two teams have been beating up on each other and using one another to achieve higher standards, and if it means anything it’s bad news for the North. Both coaches, Paul Cantabene of Stevenson and Jim Berkman of Salisbury, run serious programs, and they see support from their schools. Both programs embrace their reputations, and their fans love lacrosse.
Neither school is private, and the play on the field is always gritty and determined, but can also be very beautiful for solid stretches. The skill level is as high as it gets in D3, and the intensity is as high as it gets, period. The War on the Shore might be Salisbury’s biggest official rivalry game, but the Stevenson – Salisbury match up is quickly surpassing that legendary match up, and trust me, that is seriously saying something!
Find a way to watch the game between Salisbury and Stevenson on April 19th. Find a webcast of the game, go their in person, face time with someone who is there… whatever you need to do, check this one out! It’s no longer a case of David & Goliath, now it’s just two Goliaths battling it out. But when it comes to awesome college lacrosse, what else would you really want to see?