By Al Mattei


One of the most famous motivational speeches in sports history, spoken by the football coach Bum Phillips, equates improvement and championship potential to gaining entry through a door.

The speech ended with the phrase, "This year, we're going to kick it in."

The metaphor, as applied to Salisbury field hockey coach Dr. Dawn Chamberlin, has meaning -- especially what she may find on the other side of the door.

For the first time in the past 14 years, Chamberlin will not be the head coach of the women's lacrosse team at Salisbury, which will allow her to focus on bringing the field hockey team to the program's first NCAA title since 1986. Despite making the NCAA tournament almost every year during her tenure, Chamberlin has never won a Division III title.

"It won't help me during the fall, but I know it's going to help me in recruiting," Chamberlin says. "It's going to allow me to work with the field hockey team in the spring to get ready for the following season, which I've never been able to do."

Leading up to 2001, the Salisbury Sea Gulls have been making steady progress in NCAA Tournament competition. In 1999, the team lost in penalty strokes to Johns Hopkins. In 2000, the Gulls not only made the Final Four, they received the privilege of hosting the tournament.

But a semifinal loss has left Salisbury University and hungry for a 2001 title shot.

"That, in itself, is a motivator," Chamberlin says. "We certainly didn't play the way we wanted to, so we want to go back and finish what we set out to do."

Salisbury, perhaps more than any other team in Division III, is prepared to duplicate its previous season. The entire starting lineup returns for the Sea Gulls, and hope to attain the same level of play as in 2000 -- with, of course, a slightly different ending.

"We've got a good foundation," Chamberlin says, "and with our new additions, we're looking good."

Indeed, the 2001 Salisbury field hockey team is incredibly motivated for the season. Teams expected to be strong at the start of the season have faltered early, meaning that the Gulls -- if they play to last year's standards -- have an excellent chance to win their first NCAA field hockey championship since a perfect 21-0 season in 1986.

The team will be led by midfielder Tara Webster (Deal Island, Md.), whose younger sister Melissa joins the team as a freshman this season.

What could help down the road is the team's defensive corps: JacQui Alberti (Richwood, N.J.) and Melissa Dugan (Ellicott City, Md.) have played very well in front of All-American goalkeeper Joanna Fenske (Ewing, N.J.).