By Andrew Stinchfield
- Union’s defense proved to be a strong part of the team this year, ranking first in the Liberty League and eighth in the NCAA.
The Liberty League Lacrosse playoffs were packed full of drama and excitement. Union went into the weekend looking to defend their title as champions. Last Friday, the men’s lacrosse team won a spectacular come-from-behind 10-9 win over number 19 St. Lawrence in the Liberty League semifinals.
Union was sluggish in the beginning, where at one point the Saints were winning 8-3 early in the second quarter. It seemed as if Union’s impressive season was going to be foiled early and all hopes of an NCAA Division III tournament bid would be gone.
However, Head Coach Paul Wehrum made a gutsy and brilliant call when he pulled All-American goalie Sean Aaron ‘12 right before halftime. The coaching decision seemed to spark a fire under the team’s offense while at the same time letting Aaron compose himself.
After the half, Union rallied for six goals while Aaron and the rest of the defense held the Saints scoreless. Attack Ted McKenna ‘12 and midfielder Ethan Meyer ‘12 both had huge games for the Dutchmen, each having three goals and an assist. Other goal scorers for Union included attack Adam Rosenthal ‘15 and attack Nolan Connors ‘13.
However, the game winner came from the stick of attack Rob Santangelo ‘14 who scored with 2:15 to play in the fourth quarter to put Union ahead for the first time in the contest. St. Lawrence almost tied up the match with under a minute to play, when Saint’s goalie Jeff Goeke ran up the field and fired one past Aaron.
However, Saint’s Head Coach Mike Mahoney called a timeout right before the shot was taken and the goal was nullified.
With St. Lawrence on a man-up in the final seconds of the game, Aaron and the rest of Union’s defense stood strong and preserved the win for the Dutchmen. This gave Union a chance to defend their title as Liberty League champs.
On Sunday afternoon, the Liberty League finals were battled out between the two best teams in the conference. The number two seed Union would take on the number one seed RIT in a rematch to determine which team was the best in the Liberty League.
Before the game, eight players from Union were named to the 2012 Liberty League All-Star Team. Aaron was named the 2012 Liberty League Men’s Lacrosse Defensive player of the Year for the second consecutive season. Santangelo (1st team), defenseman Matt Livingston ‘12 (First Team), McKenna (Second Team), Meyer (Second Team), midfielder Jon Stidd ‘12 (Second Team), midfielder Alex Stone ‘12 (honorable mention) and defenseman Bob Sullivan ‘12 (honorable mention) were other Dutchmen with awards.
With RIT winning the regular season game 10-6, Union went into the game with a chip on their shoulder, looking to take revenge and defend their Liberty League title.
RIT came out ready to play and at one point they led the contest 7-3 going into the fourth quarter. However, the resilient Dutchmen would not go down without a fight and the team rallied for three of the next four goals in the game to cut the RIT lead to two with 8:48 left to play.
Attack Nolan Connors ‘13 led Union with three points on two goals and an assist, but RIT goalie Anthony DeLeo made a number of impressive saves down the stretch to protect the lead for the Tigers and give the team their first ever Liberty League championship.
While the team was upset about the loss, their season is far from over where their strong and impressive tournament play earned them an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Union will host Montclair State on Wednesday. The Dutchmen are making their second consecutive appearance in the Division III tournament.
Last year the team advanced to the second round before losing in a heart breaker 6-5 to the 2010 national champion, Tufts. Wednesday will be the first ever meeting between Union and Montclair State. On paper, it looks like Union is the favorite to win the match up. The Red Hawks lost in the regular season to both RPI and St. Lawrence, while Union beat both teams.
All in all, look for Union to make some noise in the tournament.
Union has the number one defense in the Liberty League and the number eight defense in the NCAA, allowing just six goals a game. In addition, look for McKenna (26 goals, seven assists) to play with some extra energy, as he is just one goal away from the 100-goal mark. McKenna has 134 career points (99 goals, 35 assists). The senior class will lead the charge for Union as the team hopes to have a deep run in the NCAA Division III tournament.