Philadelphia lacrosse fans have gotten a treat over the first two days of Championship Weekend. After Saturday’s Division I Semifinals were decided by two then one goal, respectively, Sunday’s Division II and III Championship Games followed suit. In a wild, unpredictable year, all the games ended up close at the end… but how they got there was anything but conventional.
In the Division II Championship, Le Moyne and Mercyhurst went back and forth through early in the third quarter. Tied at five at the half, Le Moyne scored all five third-quarter goals and made it six straight early in the fourth, but the Lakers wouldn’t go away. Much like Cornell fought back against Duke Saturday, Mercyhurst pulled as close as one before running out of gas. The Lakers’ Tyler Prevost and Doug Bailey each hit posts over the final two minutes, coming within inches of evening the score, but the Dolphins held on for the 11-10 victory.
“Absolutely fantastic game – two teams that are so in everything that we do, and it’s unfortunate that one of us had to leave here the way they did,” said Le Moyne head coach Dan Sheehan.
“Certainly everybody in our locker room is proud of the fact that we could have a game that was absolutely fantastic for everybody in attendance and everybody that had an opportunity to watch in similar fashion to the games last night,” he continued. “It’s always special to bring a group of guys down here and have an opportunity to compete for something you worked so hard for all year long.”
Le Moyne scored 10 of its 11 goals as part of two separate runs – four straight goals bridging the first and second quarters, then six in a row from the third to fourth. The Dolphins featured a balanced offense with eight different goal scorers led by three from Nate Frechette and two from Andrew Chadderdo.
Three Mercyhurst players scored a pair of goals to pace the offense. The Lakers held a 44-32 edge in shots, but Le Moyne goalie Jeff White impressed with 13 saves.
For Le Moyne, it marked the program’s first National Championship since 2007. The Dolphins had lost three title games since then, in 2008, 2009 and 2010, so it was especially satisfying to come away with the victory.
“We lost two games in the regular season, and we didn’t play badly,” said Sheehan. “There was nobody in our locker room that ever questioned anything that we were ever doing or how good we could be.”
The 22,511 fans in attendance got quite a treat in the second game as well. Following the weekend trend of one team taking a big lead before the other closes the gap, Stevenson took a 5-0 advantage just over five minutes into the game. Leading 8-3 in the second quarter, RIT scored 10 of the next 12 goals to pull ahead 13-10 at the end of three quarters of play.
“We always go in with the mentality that we’re going to win all the games, and we’re going to do everything we can to win a game, so we never think about losing,” said Stevenson head coach Paul Cantabene. “They could have given up at 13 10. They never concede anything. They never concede an inch to anybody.”
The Mustangs responded with another offensive outburst, scoring five times before the fourth quarter was even four minutes old. The five goals came in the span of just 2:27 to quickly turn the game back in their favor. Each side traded goals the rest of the way for the 16-14 final. Down just two, the Tigers had a two-man advantage with over a minute still remaining. One last shot on goal was saved by Dimitri Pecunes, his 15th stop, to preserve the win and the program’s first-ever National Title.
“Something we preach all the time is that when you’re put in position to make a play, you’ve got to make it,” said Cantabene. “These guys were put in some positions to make it and made the plays, and that’s how we win games.”
Stevenson had an impressive road to its first championship, which included beating two-time defending national champion and perennial power Salisbury twice.
Sunday’s games are what Championship Weekend is all about: great lacrosse. A memorable season of college lacrosse came to a conclusion in Division II and III, with a familiar foe taking home the trophy in Le Moyne while Stevenson made history in the nightcap.