GAFFNEY, S.C. (Limestone SID) – Facing a tough opponent and mother nature, the nationally top-ranked Limestone College men’s lacrosse team overcame both to advance to the NCAA Division II National Championship Game for a fourth consecutive year with a 12-10 win over No. 8 University of Tampa on Sunday, May 21.
Score: No. 1 Limestone 12, No. 8 Tampa 10
Records: No. 1 Limestone (20-1), No. 8 Tampa (15-5)
Location: Saints Field
INSIDE THE BOXSCORE
– Junior Charlie Sheehan (St. Catharines, Ontario) poured in a game-high five points on three goals and two assists
– Redshirt-junior Brendan P. Smith (West Islip, N.Y.) added a pair of goals
– Sophomore Jeremy Burns (Fort Mitchell, Ky.) also chipped in two goals
– Junior Ben Higgins (Hampstead, Md.) recorded two goals
– Senior Chris Clancy (Peterborough, Ontario) finished with a goal and two assists
– Junior Ryan Maciejewski (Penn Yan, N.Y.) dished out two assists
– Senior Kevin Reisman (West Babylon, N.Y.) went 17-of-25 at the center “X” and collected nine groundballs
– Junior keeper Cole Aikens (Novato, Calif.) registered eight saves for his 15th win of the year
– Limestone edged Tampa, 38-37, in shots attempted, but finished with a 42-33 margin in groundballs
– The Saints wrapped up the day going 5-of-6 on extra-man attempts
– The game was delayed for an hour early in the fourth quarter due to lightning
HOW IT HAPPENED
Tampa delivered the opening salvo, striking for a quick 1-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest, but the Saints responded with the equalizer on a man-up goal by Smith a few ticks later. The Spartans would counter with a 2-1 spurt, however, to move back in front, 3-2, with 8:41 remaining in the first.
The Blue and Gold tied things up as Higgins found the back of the net late in the period, and then Sheehan would put Limestone on top for good with his 60th goal of the season. Sheehan became only the third player in the program’s storied history to record 60 or more goals in a single year.
Limestone capitalized on its second extra-man opportunity of the afternoon as senior Colton Watkinson (Burlington, Ontario) staked the home team to a 5-3 advantage on a man-up goal early in the second. Tampa pulled to within a goal moments later, but Smith planted another man-up goal with 6:57 left.
The Saints improved to 4-of-4 on extra-man chances in the opening half as Cornetta split the cage with his 23rd goal of the year, giving the Blue and Gold a 7-4 advantage at the break.
Holding onto a 7-5 lead early in the third quarter, Sheehan scored on back-to-back possessions, including a man-up goal, as the Saints began pulling away behind a 3-0 stretch. Burns, who entered the game with four goals on the year, capped the run with his second score of the semifinal matchup to make it 10-6.
Tampa turned the momentum late in the period, however, scoring two man-up goals over the final 6:18 to close the gap to 10-7 at the end of the three.
Following a pair of lightning delays to start the fourth, the Spartans extended their scoring run to three straight goals, trimming the margin to 10-8 with 13:55 remaining in regulation, but Limestone answered on the other end as Higgins tallied his second goal of the afternoon.
Tampa again closed to within two scores late in the quarter, but Clancy would essentially put the game away with his 20th goal of the season at the 2:22-mark. The Spartans made things interesting down the stretch, scoring with 67 ticks left and then had two good looks at the cage in the closing seconds.
The Limestone defensive unit stood strong, however, blocking a last-ditch shot attempt by Andrew Kew, the nation’s top scorer, before senior Billy Koelmel (Dexter, N.Y.) secured the resulting groundball to send the Blue and Gold back to the NCAA Division II National Championship Game.
Following an early surge by Tampa, the Saints took control of the contest with an 8-2 overall run that stretched from the 4:18-mark of the first quarter to the 7:37-mark of the third. The Spartans would close the game by scoring five of the last seven goals, but Limestone had more than enough in reserve.
– Sheehan joins Roger Vyse and Mike Messenger as the only other players to notch 60 or more goals in a year; he passed Messenger for second all-time on the single season goal scoring list
– Head Coach J.B. Clarke is now tied as the program’s all-time winningest coach, posting his 128th win at the helm of the Blue and Gold
– The Saints advance to the national title game for the fifth time during Clarke’s seven-year tenure
– Limestone will make its 11th appearance overall in the National Championship Game
– Limestone improves to 9-0 all-time against Tampa, including a 3-0 mark against the Spartans in the national semifinals
Limestone will face Merrimack College in the NCAA Division II National Championship Game at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, on Sunday, May 28 at 2 p.m.
The Warriors handed the Saints their only loss of the 2017 season, an 18-13 decision on a neutral field back on April 23. It will be the first time either team has faced one another in postseason play.