There are lots of great things in life. One is lacrosse in May.
The best part about the playoffs is obviously, the heightened stakes, and coming off a devastating year of canceled sports, it is safe to say, the athletes wanted it more than ever. The thing is, when your team’s name is fortunate enough to have made the bracket, you dial in and leave it all on the line. What we saw this weekend was student-athletes fighting for what they have put a lifetime of blood, sweat, and tears into. Here’s a recap of this weekend’s games, 75% of which went into sudden-death overtime.
NCAA DI MEN’S LACROSSE
On Saturday, 5/22, Rutgers entered the NCAA tournament after a 17-year dry spell to face North Carolina in the NCAA DI Men’s Quarterfinal game. North Carolina won in overtime, but Rutgers played them in a thrilling 12-11 game and should hold their heads high for a drought-ending season. No. 4 seeded Virginia dominated No. 5 seeded Georgetown 14-3 in another Quarterfinal match. Arguably due to Georgetown’s Faceoff specialist getting injured within minutes of the game starting.
On Sunday, 5/23, in the NCAA DI Men’s Quarterfinal match between No. 2 seeded Duke and Loyola Maryland, Duke sent them packing in a thrilling OT sudden-death victory. Senior Joe Robertson, Captain Clutch, scored in the last minute of overtime to send Duke to the Final Four.
Also on Sunday was the NCAA Division I Men’s Quarterfinal between Notre Dame and Maryland. It was another thrilling overtime, 14-13 game. Anthony DeMaio ended it on a give-and-go 39 seconds into overtime to give Maryland more life. If Maryland hadn’t won, Jared Bernhardt’s turnover would have been historically bad. Though he had 5 goals on the day, his teammates saved him from a lifetime of infamy in terms of sports history. I mean c’mon, he’s the Tewaaraton Favorite, and he got stripped with 20 seconds left in a tie game. When you’re the season’s and league’s MVP, you can’t choke in those moments. Maryland, BIG-10, is the only non-ACC team in the tournament for the men.
No.1 seed North Carolina will play No. 4 seed Virginia, and No. 3 seed Maryland will play No. 2 seed Duke in the other semifinal game. Championship weekend will be held at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. One thing that makes this year’s tournament unique is the absence of Ivy Leagues. In the last lacrosse championship, there was, Virginia, beat Yale. The absence of Ivy Leagues due to the pandemic is another factor weighing on the tournament this year, many Ivy League players transferred and took their 5th year to ACC schools because Ivy League teams aren’t playing at all. For example, Michael Sowers transferred from Princeton to take his grad year at Duke and is a Tewaaraton finalist, currently number three on the points list for all DI men. Connor McCarthy is another Princeton graduate who decided to continue his lacrosse career and attend North Carolina.
Duke over Maryland. If Joe Robertson’s already had 3 OT winners this season alone, I have faith he could do it again.
Virginia over North Carolina, because they are reigning champions after all. With a bunch of players returning and added firepower from Charlie Burch, DII player of the year on the squad.
NCAA DI WOMEN’S LACROSSE
As for the women, the top 4 seeded Division I teams also made it to the semi-finals. No.1 North Carolina will play No.4 Boston College, and No. 3 Syracuse will play No. 2 Northwestern.
Boston College took down Notre Dame 21-10 to be one step closer to the finish line. Northwestern beat Duke 22-10, Syracuse beat Florida 17-11, and North Carolina took care of Stony Brook 14-11 to get into the Semis.
Syracuse over anyone. Being that is my hometown, I will always say Go Orange!
Boston College and North Carolina are both stacked with incredibly skilled women, I would love to see either team win.
NCAA DIVISION II MEN’S AND WOMEN’S LACROSSE
On the Division II Men’s side, Le Moyne beat Mercyhurst in a tight game 11-9 to clear their path to the championship game on May 30th where they will meet Lenoir Rhyne in the final fight.
Lindenwood (MO) Women’s Lacrosse became the first team NOT in the Eastern time zone to win a DII National Championship.
On May 23, second-ranked Lindenwood (16-1) and top-seeded Queens (NC) (14-1) took the championship field for the first time in both program’s histories. Either side that won could have been an underdog victory, and my loyal readers, you know how I feel about an underdog.
Here’s how it went down:
Both teams came out playing like they had nothing to lose, but after an early 2-2 tie, Lindenwood took off flying, scoring 4 more goals (6-2) before Queen’s players Kara Blanchard and Shannon Donovan squeaked two back-to-back scores by keeper Elanor Kast to make it 6-4 Lindenwood. At this point in the game, Lindenwood was dominating the draw and exploiting the Royals defense whenever an opportunity presented itself. Despite a great job by Lindenwood on face guarding, Queens offense was still able to sneak by in the middle for draws and dumps coming from behind at X. Next, another goal came from Erin McGuire to give Lindenwood a 3 goal lead. 7-4. Lindenwood’s Carly Federowski kept applying pressure, she ripped it top right corner on a free position to make it 8-4 Lindenwood. Federowski, Lexy Biller, and McGuire all had 2 goals for Lindenwood at this point. The Royals answered back. Donovan scored off a feed to close the gap to 3 goals. 8-5 Lindenwood. Biller scored the next goal off a top shoulder drive and low rip, making her mark for the day with a Hat Trick. 9-5 Lindenwood. A foul by Queens gave Emma Arnold a free position shot opportunity, and she got the job done. 10-5 Lindenwood. McGuire located Callie Eldred on a cut to make it 11-5 Lindenwood. McGuire kept the run going here making their lead 7 points, and 3 goals of her own. 12-5 Lindenwood to close out the first half.
Biller was first to score after the players took the field for another thirty minutes. With a new goalie in net for Queens, Mady Bednarik, they needed to make some huge plays on both sides of the field in the second half. 13-5 Lindenwood leads by 8. Arnold scores again cutting the lead to 9 and now the game is just 1 goal shy of a running clock. 14-5. Impressively, the next 7 goals of the game came from the Royals, including a hat trick from Blanchard that gave the Royals new life. Queens owned the second half, but it was not enough to come back from a phenomenal first-half lead that Lindenwood put on the board. 14-12 Final. Lindenwood’s Women’s lacrosse program began in 2003 and just made history by winning its first National Championship.
2 THINGS WE’VE LEARNED FROM THE WEEKEND. 1, LACROSSE IS EXCITING 2, LACROSSE IS GROWING
Another highlight of this column is that the days of lacrosse being a Northeastern sport are over. The Women’s DII Championship game featured a team from East of the Mississippi and South of the Mason Dixon Line. The sport is growing across the country and the absence of the 2020 season has made the athletes competing, hungrier. Championship weekend will sure to be a must-watch. Tune in on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, to see the action.