It took a tournament for Sam Salisbury (highlights) to reshape his mental approach to lacrosse, but once he did, the Team 91 Carolina 2020 longstick midfielder changed everything.
After the first fall tournament last November, one where he didn’t get as much playing time as he would have liked, Salisbury opted against sulking and feeling sorry for himself. Rather, he doubled his efforts and decided to simply outwork everyone.
“I wasn’t happy after the first tournament because I didn’t play a lot, so I just started putting in more work and making sure that I was working harder than everyone else,” Salisbury said. “I carried that mentality into high school ball, too, just making sure that I’m the hardest-working player on the field.”
The Middle Creek junior’s mindset paid off, and when he started looking at colleges, he figured that he’d have a chance to play at a high level. That being said, he didn’t realize that his opportunity would come locally, and it certainly didn’t cross his mind right away.
“A friend of mine signed up for a prospect day at Barton, and I wanted to get exposure to another school, but I didn’t know much about the school and just went for fun,” Salisbury said. “When the coach asked if I wanted to stay overnight, though, I knew that this might be an option for me. When I woke up the next day, I just didn’t want to leave.”
From there, it didn’t take Salisbury long to realize that Barton was the place for him, and he committed to the in-state Bulldogs. Barton, a program enjoying its first season in team history, gave Salisbury an opportunity to play Division II lacrosse without having to go far from home. Initially, he envisioned heading out of the area for college, but the more he looked at Barton, the more he found himself at home not far from home.
“It’s only an hour and 10 minutes or an hour and 20 minutes from home,” Salisbury explained. “Originally, I wanted to be pretty far away, but I met kids from Canada and California at Barton and had conversationd with them about what it’s like to be far away from home, and I kind of rethought everything and wanted to be closer to home. I was also never super interested in Division I because I want a lot of playing time and I wouldn’t want to be the kid that sits on the sidelines, so I looked at Division II and III schools. I really want to major in sports and entertainment marketing, and I did a lot of research on the school and saw that they had my major. The coaches said they’d be able to connect me with people who have jobs in that job area, and it’s a career that I’d like to pursue.”
The hard-working defenseman prides himself on being able to scrap and physically overpower attackmen, and he loves clearing the ball. His defensive game has come a significant way since he first started, thanks in large part to his work at 91 and individual lessons with Middle Creek coach and Team 91 director Nick Holota. His desire to continually get better helped him land at Barton, and it’ll go a long way in helping him succeed on and off the field. For Holota, it’s particularly rewarding to see a player with whom he’s worked so closely find a great home like Barton.
“I’ve had the chance to watch Sam put in a lot of time and work from the youth leagues on into high school,” Holota said. “He’s a great example of a kid who set a goal and then went after it full force both on the field and academically. He’s in a position where he can leave a great legacy at a brand-new program, and it’s particularly cool to see him be able to do that without leaving the state. We’re excited to watch him and the Bulldogs, and we know that he’ll do great things there.”