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April 3, 2009 Multiple Battles For The #1 Position In The CAC Saturday At Salisbury

There's a lot of interest in the men's lacrosse showdown for first place Saturday featuring the undefeated No. 1-ranked Stevenson Mustangs at the No. 4-ranked two-time defending NCAA champion Salisbury Sea Gulls.  But a closer look CAC composite schedules and standings show four events pitting the top two teams in the conference fighting for the top rung in the standings - all being played Saturday at Salisbury.

SOFTBALL - #2 Mary Washington (7-1 CAC) at #1 Salisbury (6-0 CAC), DH at noon
MEN'S TENNIS - #2 Mary Washington (2-0 CAC) at #1 Salisbury (3-0 CAC), 1 p.m.
WOMEN'S LACROSSE - #2 St. Mary's (4-0 CAC) at #1 Salisbury (4-0 CAC), 2 p.m.
MEN'S LACROSSE - #2 Stevenson (4-0 CAC) at #1 Salisbury (5-0 CAC), 7 p.m.

There are other contenders for top positions in those sports, such as third-place York softball (5-1 CAC) and third-place Mary Washington women's lacrosse (4-1 CAC).  But as the CAC regular seasons wind down and prepares for the mid-April playoffs, Saturday's contests at Salisbury will go a long way to help determine the top seed in the championship tournaments.

SOFTBALL:  Traditionally the top two programs in the CAC, UMW fell to Salisbury in the 2008 title contest.  Mary Washington's lone CAC setback this season was on Monday (3/30), when the Eagles split a twinbill against York.  The Spartans get their chance at the 12-time defending CAC Champion Sea Gulls, who are ranked #18 in the April 1 NFCA poll.

MEN'S TENNIS:  Mary Washington has won nine-straight CAC titles and ranks 15th in the March 17th ITA national poll.  Salisbury upended the Eagles during the regular season last year, but UMW bounced back in the 2008 CAC title match. 

WOMEN'S LACROSSE: This is a re-match of the 2008 CAC title game, which St. Mary's lost by an 18-7 count under then-coach Carol Schmoeller.  This year, under first-year mentor Kara Reber, SMC is back in the national rankings at the No. 18 position of the IWLCA March 30 poll.  However, Salisbury is perched at the top of the national rankings again.  The Gulls have won six-straight CAC titles and advanced to at least the NCAA national semifinals in four of the last five years.  Salisbury also still has to deal with Mary Washington (4/15), which has been in the Top 20 rankings several weeks this season.  SMC downed UMW by a 14-11 margin on March 26.

MEN'S LACROSSE: Several of Salisbury's multi-year win streaks were snapped when visiting Gettysburg upset the Gulls, 11-10, in the annual battle held last Saturday at Salisbury.  But there are still several key streaks still alive under Jim Berkman, the winningest coach in collegiate men's lacrosse history, including 105 consecutive victories in CAC games, 14-straight conference championships and two-straight national championships (four in the last five years).  Salisbury has never lost to a CAC rival, including regular season and post-season meetings.

Stevenson travels down the Delmarva Peninsula with an unblemished 10-0 overall record and the No. 1 ranking nationally.  Prior to the loss to Gettysburg last week, Salisbury was the top-ranked team in the country from the beginning of the season, and Stevenson had moved up to the No. 2 position.  A key win in Stevenson's climb was a 16-6 victory over then-second-ranked Gettysburg on March 4.

In the 2008 regular-season meeting at Stevenson (then known as Villa Julie College), the Mustangs rallied from a 6-0 first-quarter deficit to take a fourth-quarter lead, only to finish with a 13-12 setback vs. Salisbury.  In the re-match two weeks later, the Gulls went on a mid-game 10-0 run, including all nine goals scored in the third quarter, to secure the CAC championship with a 20-10 victory.

The regular-season champion in all four of these sports gains a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the CAC playoffs, so a win Saturday could be critical to solving the puzzles of four Capital Athletic Conference titles.