Mike Kane went from Falmouth to Salisbury, Maryland, because he wanted to be part of a team that contended for a national championship in men’s lacrosse.
Salisbury University, a Division III power, kept its end of the bargain. In Kane’s first two years on campus, the Sea Gulls won their ninth and 10th NCAA titles in 2011 and 2012.
Kane, a junior, will start at attack as Salisbury’s leading goal scorer when the Sea Gulls (21-1) face Tufts (20-2) for the national title at 1 p.m. Sunday at the home of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
Kane played sparingly as a freshman midfielder and then made a dramatic decision.
He skipped what would have been his sophomore season in 2012.
“My sophomore year I was sitting behind some very good players and I knew a few of the other guys were going to take the year off and train and get better,” Kane said. “I did sort of a redshirt year. Overall it was a very good decision.”
Kane spent that year investing in his lacrosse future. While former teammates were practicing, he went to a side field and worked on his shot against a recently graduated All-American goalie, Johnny Rodriguez. He played endless hours, watched film, improved his fitness and stayed as connected to the program as he could.
On Sunday, Kane’s personal lacrosse transformation will pay its biggest dividend.
“He’s a coach’s dream,” Coach Jim Berkman said. “In the semifinal he had some big goals in the fourth quarter to help us create separation. The next day was a day off and at 6 at night I come out of the office and he’d already been shooting for 21/2 hours with another player.
“He’s truly a guy that realizes effort equals outcome.”
WAITING, THEN SCORING
In his first two seasons, sandwiched around the year he took off, Kane played in 19 games and scored 11 goals.
It was after his sabbatical that Kane decided to make one more pivotal change, moving from the midfield where he’d starred at Falmouth High to attack. Close to the goal his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame could be maximized, his foot speed limitations minimized.
“My job is reading the play and getting to a spot where I can receive a pass so I can score,” Kane said. “You definitely take a lot of hits in the crease. My job is to finish the ball and a lot of times that comes with punishment afterward.”
This season Kane scored a team-high 47 goals while starting 20 of Salisbury’s 22 games.
“He was in the mix with five or six attackmen going into the season,” Berkman said. “We had an injury and he went out and scored. Then he scored another goal. He got the opportunity and seized the moment.”
Kane said the fact he’s had to wait his turn to crack the Salisbury lineup is common.
This year 10 Sea Gulls were named to the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association All-America team: four to the first team, one on the second team and five honorable mentions.
Kane wasn’t among those selected.
“We don’t rebuild at Salisbury, we reload,” Kane said. “When you come in as a freshman you see the upperclassmen, the senior All-Americans getting all that attention, and they had done the same thing. They’d sat behind somebody else their first years.”
THIS TIME ON THE FIELD
This will be Kane’s third trip to the national championship game.
In 2011 as a freshman, Kane broke his wrist two weeks before the title game in Baltimore and watched from the sidelines.
“I probably wouldn’t have dressed for that game anyway,” he said.
The next year the Sea Gulls won the title at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Because Kane wasn’t officially on the team, he had to pay his own way and buy a ticket.
“My best friends were guys on the team,” Kane said. “Even though I was not playing I did attend a lot of practices. Even though I couldn’t dress for the game or wear the uniform or the official polo shirt, it was really important to be there.”
On Sunday, Kane’s parents, Melissa and Jim Kane, several other family members and a bunch of his high school friends will be among an expected crowd of 20,000 during a weekend of lacrosse in Baltimore that includes the Division I and II title games.
This time, Mike Kane will be on the field.
“I knew that if I worked hard and was patient and took my time and focused on the things I could control, that eventually I would be put in a position where I could succeed,” Kane said.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: