Since losing unceremoniously to Lindenwood in the DII National Championship game last May at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, Salisbury has been on a warpath.
Salisbury hasn’t lost a single game during the 2012/2013 season, barely even playing a close one. In the fall, the Sharks went 10-0 against DII competition. This spring, they’re 2-0 against DII teams and 1-0 against men’s clubs.
Most recently, a couple of DI teams were dispatched on the Sharks’ march back to playoffs.They beat Delaware 41-22 on March 9th and Wheeling Jesuit 55-40 Saturday. Salisbury’s biggest lead over the Cardinals was 36-14.
The DII blue blood program, which is attempting to reach the final four for the third-straight season, plays DI-AA St. Joe’s this weekend.
“Not having [territorial playoffs] this year’s going to be big, because we don’t have that upper level of competition, so we try and fill it with the same level of competition we would be getting,” said Salisbury captain and RUGBYMag.com DII All American Nick Kuhl.
“We’re excited when we get a chance to play these DI teams, because we feel we play at that caliber, so we feel like we can compete with any of these teams…We want to make sure we prove to everyone else that we belong in DI. We would love to be up there, so these are big opportunities for us to play these teams, so that just motivates us that much more.”
The lopsided loss to Lindenwood, and being bounced in the National Semifinal by Middlebury in 2011, act as motivation, too.
“What hits us the most is those seniors who have put in just as much work, more work than we’ve put in up to this point, and to see them graduate and they don’t have that shot anymore,” said Kuhl.
“We want to do it for them, and that makes us work that much harder. It is a bitter taste in your mouth after that, and you leave with your head down, but right after that you know you have next year, so ever since then we’ve just been busting our asses and trying to get back there.”
How does the 2012 Salisbury compare to the 2013 Salisbury?
“I wouldn’t go as far as saying we’re better as in more skilled or even better conditioned. We’re closer. It’s a lot of guys that have returned for the last three years or so, so we’ve been together for a while,” said Kuhl.
“Each and every year we just become closer as friends, as teammates and all that, and that shows on the field. We’re really jelling rugby wise, and I think that’s going a long, long way. So I’m looking forward to the next month or two to see how far we can take this and try and redeem ourselves from a disappointing loss last year.”