Monday, May 28, 2018

Merrimack Runs Away with NCAA D2 Men's Lax National Title at Gillette

By Michael Abelson (@ABELS0N)

Foxborough, Mass. - It would have taken an act of god to keep the Merrimack men’s lacrosse team from hoisting the trophy as NCAA Division II champions, and that still might not have been enough.

One year after seeing their dreams slip away at Gillette Stadium, the Warriors returned to the same patch of earth and left no stone unturned, as they took apart Saint Leo 23-6 to claim the program’s first ever national title.

The 23 goals tied for the most ever in a national final regardless of division. The Warriors now share the record with 1977 Hobart and 1980 UMBC.

“Our guys played as well as you could play, and fought as hard as you could fight,” Merrimack coach Mike Morgan said. “I told them in the locker room, I couldn't imagine a group that I'd want to have a National Championship more than these guys.”

After a slow opening few minutes the Warriors jumped the Lions and never let off. A 6-0 lead after a quarter grew to 13-1 lead at halftime. By contrast, Saint Leo had just 12 total shots in the opening 30 minutes.

As has been the case all season, the Warriors got the victory on the back of its diverse offensive attack.

The Warriors were led by freshman Christian Thomas. The Wrentham native had three goals and an eye-popping seven assists to pick up Most Outstanding Player honors. Sophomore Charlie Bertrand and senior Jack Trask each had four goals. Freshman Sean Black and junior Sudbury native Michael O’Connell each had a hat trick. O’Connell also added a pair of assists, and Hanover native Dean Prouty added a helper as well.

Of Merrimack’s 23 goals, 17 were assisted

“It's happened throughout the entire playoffs,” senior Hunter Schmell who had two points, said. “It happened in the Tech game. It happened at the Seton Hill game. We go on runs and win in the middle of the field. It was no different today.”

Merrimack won faceoffs 19-11 and dominated ground balls 54-38. All that hustle, and added possession time, was the key to the Warriors cruising to the win.

Even when Merrimack didn’t have the ball the Warriors’ defense limited the Lions to scraps. Saint Leo was only able to put 22 shots on goal as Merrimack’s polls clogged lanes and kept the Saint Leo attack from getting open looks.

“Yeah, going into it we knew they were a pretty good offense and they had a lot of guys that could finish inside,” senior longpole James Bassett said. “We played a full 60 today, and I think that really showed. Every single time we got a goal, we refocused and knew that [Saint Leo] had to come down, and we'd get another stop of [their] offense and get [our attack] the ball.”

The future looks bright for the Warriors. The entire attack line of Bertrand, Black, and Thomas return, as does freshman goalie Peter Brown, who made eight saves against the Lions.

O’Connell returns as a senior as well.

“The biggest thing we've always [tried] to [do is] restock with talent and have those guys contend with each other on a daily basis in practice,” Morgan said. “I think we've done a good job with that with our staff. It's nice to know you have 200-something points coming back at attack as a sophomore and two freshmen. It's a good problem to have and we'll piece everything around them."

No comments :