Nick Durtschi took what he hopes was his next step in progression as a lacrosse player this spring for the Salisbury University men's team.

The 2015 Olentangy Liberty High School graduate knows that his mentality in the sport has improved after witnessing what it's like to be a part of a championship team the last few months.

Durtschi played in 12 games for the Sea Gulls, who beat Rochester Institute 15-7 in the Division III national final May 28 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

The sophomore midfielder didn't play in Salisbury's final five games, but got to experience what it's like to prepare for important games as part of a program that has won 12 national titles since 1994.

"It was very exciting playing with a group of guys that are kind of like a lot of role models," Durtschi said. "The upperclassmen were on a mission to get the title and I was blessed to be a part of that mentality."

Durtschi, a first-team all-state honoree in 2015 when the Patriots went 17-5 and reached a Division I state semifinal, originally signed with Division I Bellarmine University.

After a four-year prep career that included scoring 17 goals as a sophomore, having 21 goals and 10 assists as a junior and 31 goals and four assists as a senior, Durtschi played in six games for Bellarmine in 2016 before suffering a season-ending lower abdominal muscle tear during a practice.

During the following offseason, he decided to get a fresh start at Salisbury.

"Nick was incredibly athletic (with) quick bursts and (a) hard shot," Liberty coach Jason Godwin said. "He has a great passion for the game (and) always draws attention from defenses. He created early slide situations that allowed very wide-spread productive offense (for the team) in 2014 and '15."

This season for Salisbury, Durtschi scored two goals in a 25-3 win over Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, and had an assist in a 26-4 victory over Wesley College in Dover, Delaware.

Salisbury, which was ranked No. 1 heading into the NCAA tournament, beat seventh-ranked Denison 12-11 in a semifinal May 21. The Big Red featured four players from central Ohio in Chris Haimbaugh (Dublin Jerome), Josh Happ (Worthington Kilbourne), Wills Hutras (Dublin Scioto) and Cole Jaquith (Granville).

Rochester Institute's roster included St. Charles graduate Dave Shuster.

The Sea Gulls will enter next season looking for their third consecutive national title. They also won three in a row from 2003-05 and won back-to-back titles in 2007 and '08 and 2011 and '12.

"I wanted to be a part of something that had a legacy, and Salisbury had won 11 national titles when I came here," Durtschi said. "I can honestly say it's been a huge step up in lacrosse IQ for me. They have the best coaches and players on the team that have won previous national championships. A lot of the players on the team are from the east coast, so a lot of them have been playing for a long time. Gaining lacrosse IQ was definitely the big thing I was lacking compared to other kids."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek