ERIE, P.A. (LE MOYNE ATHLETICS) – Fifth-year attackman Matt Hutchings (Marcellus, N.Y./Marcellus) registered seven points for the second straight game to lead the top-ranked and top-seeded Le Moyne College men’s lacrosse team back to the NCAA Division II National Championship game as the Dolphins recorded an 11-9 victory over third-ranked and third-seeded Mercyhurst University in the NCAA Championship semifinals on Sunday afternoon at Mercyhurst’s Saxon Stadium.
The Dolphins, who improve to 9-0 all-time against the Lakers, including 3-0 in the NCAA Championships, advance to their 10th NCAA title game (the third-most in Division II history) in the last 17 years and will take on second-ranked and top-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne University (15-1) on Sunday, May 30 in East Hartford, Connecticut at Rentschler Field, the home of the University of Connecticut football program. The Bears advanced to their first title game with an 18-10 win over second-seeded Wingate. The Dolphins are 5-4 in their previous nine title game appearances.
Mercyhurst, which entered the game as the highest scoring offense in Division II at 20.23 goals per game, got on the scoreboard first as Nicholas Mabe scored 60 seconds into the contest. The Lakers took a 2-0 lead at the 8:48 mark on Nathan Grenon’s 29th goal of the year off a pass from Caleb Kueber.
The Dolphins answered with the final two goals of the quarter to even the score at two apiece. Hutchings got the team on the scoreboard at the 2:52 mark with his 16th goal of the year. Senior midfielder Evan Kelly (Honeoye Falls, N.Y./Aquinas Institute) tied the game at two with his 12th goal of the year with eight seconds left in the period off a pass from Hutchings.
Senior attackman Devin Andrews (Canandaigua, N.Y./Canandaigua Academy/Stony Brook) gave the Dolphins the lead for the first time with 13:31 left in the second with his 13th tally of the season off a pass from graduate student attackman Jake Nelson (Charlotte, N.C./Vestal (N.Y.)/Binghamton/Mercer/Syracuse).
Kueber scored for Mercyhurst with 8:19 until halftime to tie the score at three apiece.
Le Moyne regained the lead with 4:57 left in the half as senior midfielder Ben McCreary (Cicero, N.Y./Christian Brothers Academy (Syracuse)) scored his 22nd goal of the campaign off a feed from graduate student midfielder Ross Filtch (Marcellus, N.Y./Marcellus/Siena).
Mercyhurst tallied the final two goals of the half to take a 5-4 lead into halftime. Todd Redman scored off a rebound to even the score at four with 1:55 remaining in the half. Grenon scored his second of the day to put Mercyhurst up 5-4 with 50 seconds left off a pass from Devin Pipher.
After starting the second half with a one-minute extra-man opportunity, the Lakers took a 6-4 lead 23 seconds into the quarter as Grenon scored off a pass from Kueber.
The Dolphins responded with the next six goals, five of which Hutchings had a hand in, to take control of the game. Junior midfielder Colin Sypek (Lake Worth, Fla./American Heritage School (Delray Beach)) started the streak with his 14th goal of the year with 10:53 left in the quarter off a pass from Hutchings. Redshirt junior midfielder Zach Pierce (Gansevoort, N.Y./Schuylerville/Onondaga C.C.) tied the game at six with 8:29 left in the third off another assist from Hutchings, who passed Gold Wave Hall of Fame member Brandon Spillett ’05 for seventh on the program’s career points list with his 186th. Hutchings then registered his second goal of the day by burying a missile with 7:10 left off a feed from freshman midfielder Seth Benedict (Stanley, N.Y./Marcus Whitman) for a 7-6 lead. Pierce followed with his second of the day and eighth of the season, this time in an extra-man situation, off another feed from Hutchings to make it 8-6 with 3:06 left in the third.
Le Moyne, specifically McCreary, opened the fourth quarter with the first two goals. He found the back of the net 45 seconds into the quarter for a 9-6 lead after taking a pass from Pierce. He scored again with 10:33 to play off a dish from Hutchings to cap the scoring jaunt.
Mercyhurst responded with three goals in 1:56 to get back within one. Bryce Johnson ended Mercyhurst’s scoring drought of 19 and one-half minutes at the 10:07 mark to snap Le Moyne’s six-goal run. Zach Lorenz scored his 12th of the year just over one minute later. Grenon scored his fourth goal of the day with 8:11 remaining to get the Lakers within 10-9.
The Dolphins ended the game’s scoring with 5:02 left as Nelson swatted a loose ball into the net from the left edge of the crease for his team high-tying 24th goal of the year.
The Lakers put two shots on goal on the ensuing possession, but each was turned away by redshirt junior goalkeeper Frank Delia (Baldwinsville, N.Y./C.W. Baker/Onondaga C.C.). Senior short-stick defensive midfielder Braeden Elmer (Syracuse, N.Y./Westhill/Onondaga C.C.) then caused a turnover and scooped up the ground ball with 4:03 left and the Lakers didn’t regain possession the remainder of the game.
Delia finished the game with eight saves, including four in the fourth quarter, to earn his eighth win of the season. Cole Pellicano recorded six saves in the loss for the Lakers.