PHILADELPHIA, P.A. — With the men’s Division I champion being crowned on Monday, it was the Division II and Division III teams that took the stage in front of 18,702 at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
Division II National Championship
In their last game as a Division II program, the Merrimack Warriors completed a “poetic” run, as head coach Mike Morgan would call it, to their second straight Division II national championship with a 16-8 win over the Limestone Saints.
After Limestone tied the game at three early in the second quarter, the Warriors went on a 7-0 run to break the game up with a 10-3 lead under a minute into the third quarter.
The Saints made things interesting for the remainder of the quarter as they went on a 4-0 run to cut the Warrior lead to 10-7. But junior Charlie Bertrand, the Division II recipient of the Lt. Raymond J. Enners Outstanding Player of the Year and Lt. Col. JI Turnbull Outstanding Attackman of the Year awards, ended the Limestone run with two straight goals, including a behind-the-back tally. Merrimack scored four more times in the quarter to double up the Saints.
“The story of this team the whole year is just that we have been battling adversity,” Bertrand said. “We have gone through a lot of stuff that’s built us as a team, and when Limestone went on that run, we knew we had to just do the same thing we have been doing, stick to what makes us good, play as a team and play together, just like we did in the couple other NCAA games. If you go down a few goals, you just keep playing, you don’t want to go out of your role.”
The “poetic” national title run was a rough and tough one. The Warriors may have been lucky from the recent expansion of the Division II Tournament to 12 teams. Merrimack was the No. 6 and final seed in the North Region and had to face the top four teams in the latest USILA poll. The “Six Train” destroyed No. 3 seed Mercyhurst in the first round in their first ever matchup. The Warriors held off NE10 rival Adelphi, a team they lost to by nine in the regular season, by two goals before winning a wild thriller against fellow NE10 rival Le Moyne in overtime. Beating Limestone was revenge for the team’s 2017 national championship loss to the Saints.
“I said to the guys before, you guys are writing the story,” Morgan said. “This is the end, so you write it how you want it. They did. This season will go down as something special. Last year a lot of things broke our way last year, and not that it wasn’t sweet, but when you win by kind of what we won by last year, things broke your way, it’s the first time, so you’re excited but I felt like we earned this year, really earned this year.
“These guys didn’t quit from day one. We were tough on them, really tough on them, and I think they just kept plugging along, like these guys said, and here we are.”
The Warriors will become members of Division I and the Northeast Conference on July 1. At the end of the game, Christian Thomas didn’t fling the game ball up in the air. He gave it to Morgan as a symbol of their end in Division II. But despite the move, the program’s culture won’t change.
“We have always been built on hard work, selflessness, confidence,” Morgan said. “Our level is middle, middle high Division I already, so I don’t think we’re changing much in terms of the structure, but the quality and what made us good in DII will certainly be what make us good in DI.
“You have to have guys that are bought into what you’re doing, bought into loving the program, the school, and being hard working. That doesn’t change in Division I. You will see better competition. But for us it’s knowing you’ve got to work, you’ve got to grind. We got a team that just grinded their way all the way to a national championship as a sixth seed. On the road four times, if you count today as a road game.
“At the end of the day, we’ve been running this thing for the last eight or nine years with a Division I model, so for us, it’s taking the good qualities of DII but also knowing that there are some opportunities when we move to DI with the type of teams we will be playing and the publicity and whatnot.”
A Charlie Bertrand (4 Gs, 3 As, 3 GBs)
A Sean Black (2 Gs, 3 As, 1 GB)
M Dan Thomas (3 Gs, 1 A, 2 GBs)
A Christian Thomas (3 Gs, 1 A)
M Max Morrill (2 As, 1 GB)
M Michael O’Connell (1 G, 1 GB)
M Seamus Ford (1 G, 1 GB)
M Drew Hailey (1 G)
A Tyler Liantonio (1 G)
D Carlin Joyal (1 CT, 4 GBs)
D Nicholas Perez-Blanco (1 CT, 3 GBs)
D Alex Marceau (1 CT, 1 GB)
M Brennan McInnis (1 CT, 1 GB)
FOGO Davis Cronin (18-of-27 FOs, 11 GBs)
G Nick Ponte (12 saves, 2 GBs)
M Tyler Papa (2 Gs, 3 As)
A Larson Sundown (3 Gs)
A Brian Huyghue (2 Gs, 1 GB, 1 CT)
A Matt Bennett (1 G, 1 A, 3 GBs)
M Clark Walter (2 As, 1 GB)
M Jeremy Burns (2 As)
M Dylan Brown (1 CT, 1 GB)
FOGO Dakota Kirsch-Downs (7-of-17 FOs, 4 GBs)
FOGO Christopher Parrott (2-of-10 FOs, 1 GB)
G Danny Foren (16 saves, 2 GBs, 1 CT)
Division III National Championship
In the battle of two first timers, the hometown Cabrini Cavaliers ended the day 1-0 for the 22nd time in 2019 as they defeated the Amherst Mammoths 16-12 for their first ever national championship. But Cabrini head coach Steve Colfer thought luck would be on their side on Saturday at the Division I semifinals.
“I didn’t realize the section when we went to the banquet on Friday night. They [staffers at the NCAA Tournament] said ‘okay after the Fanfest, you’re going to go in and your teams will be sitting in Section 108. That’s where we have reserved for the DIII teams to watch the DI game.’ And I go to my seat and I’m sitting there and I turn and I said, oh my God, I got a really eerie feeling right now, and they said why? One row in front, three seats down is the seat I sat in to watch the Eagles beat the Vikings to go to the Super Bowl in 2018.
“I had just told [Philadelphia Eagles center] Jason Kelce that out on the field. He is a big supporter of Cabrini lacrosse. His wife went to Cabrini and she worked in our athletic department for a number of years, and Kelce has been around our guys, spoken to the guys and is good friends with a bunch of guys on our team, and I told him that and he was laughing, and he said, that’s a pretty good omen, that’s a pretty good omen.”
The Cavaliers got off to a slow start. Amherst began the game with two goals before the teams would alternate tallies. But the Mammoths would end the alternating pattern with a two-goal run in under a minute from Matt Solberg and Jon Coffey before the Cavaliers scored three straight to tie the game at six heading into halftime.
Jackson Herrick gave Amherst the lead back to begin the third quarter. Cabrini would score two straight goals to give them their first lead of the day with 11:36 left in the third before Evan Wolf tied the game back up at eight. The teams would alternate goals once more, but the Cavaliers found an opening by scoring seven of the final 10 goals to take the win, including a three-goal run to begin the final quarter that began from Kyle Tucker, who was named the Most Outstanding Player. Timmy Brooks, who was cleared to fully play last night after suffering a broken collarbone, scored the eventual game-winning goal as well as another in the final quarter.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” Tucker said. “I didn’t have words to describe it when I was out on the field. All I could do is put my hands on my head and think about how unbelievable this experience is.”
“There are so many great coaches in this city at the high school level, at the college level, and at the youth level,” said Cabrini head coach Steve Colfer. “I grew up in West Chester and started playing youth lacrosse there and after college came back to this area and played in summer leagues and men’s leagues and got coaching at Cabrini and have been mentored by so many of these guys. And to be able to do something like that, it’s unreal. It’s a tribute to all those guys. I learn, I try to really work at this, and if someone is talking about lacrosse, I’m going to go listen.
“To see teams break through and to get to this championship weekend is huge, and then to ultimately get a national championship is huge. So if there’s anyone out there thinking, I don’t know if we’re doing it right, if we’re recruiting the right kids, I don’t know if I have the right support. You gotta be persistent. You gotta plant your flag somewhere in life and work hard around it, and I really believe if you do that the potential is there for you in your program. Hopefully all those guys in Philly own a little piece of this, because it’s special to do that.”
So with Cabrini getting their championship, Colfer is putting pressure on Kelce to do the same.
“I told him as I’m walking out, ‘okay now the ball is back in your court. The Eagles have to go back and get us another Super Bowl next year.’ And he looked at me and laughed, but he didn’t say no.”
A Jordan Krug (2 Gs, 3 As, 3 GBs)
A Kyle Tucker (3 Gs, 1 A, 1 GB)
A Bill Morgan (3 Gs)
M Tyler Kostack (2 Gs)
A Timmy Brooks (2 Gs)
M Mike Gerzabek (2 As)
LSM Kyle Myers (1 G, 4 GBs)
M Sean Wagner (1 G, 3 GBs, 3 CTs)
M Kevin Leyden (1 G, 1 GB)
D Tommy DeLuca (1 CT, 5 GBs)
D Kevin Delaney (1 CT, 1 GB)
SSDM Robert Cressman (1 CT, 4 GBs)
FOGO Luke McCallion (14-of-26 FOs, 4 GBs)
FOGO Jake Huey (2-of-4 FOs, 1 GB, 1 G)
G Riley White (11 saves, 2 GBs, 2 CTs)
M Matt Solberg (2 Gs, 2 As)
A Evan Wolf (2 Gs, 1 A, 3 GBs)
M PJ Clementi (3 As)
A Jon Coffey (2 Gs, 5 GBs, 1 CT)
M Jackson Herrick (2 Gs, 2 GBs)
M Brogan Mahon (1 G, 1 A, 1 GB)
M Grant Chryssicas (2 As, 4 GBs, 1 CT)
A Colin Minicus (1 G, 3 GBs, 1 CT)
M Jack Norton (1 G, 1 GB)
A Dylan Peabody (1 G)
D Rod Castro (1 CT, 1 GB)
M Trenton Shore (1 CT, 1 GB)
LSM Luke Mallette (1 CT, 1 GB)
LSM James Crovatto (1 CT)
FOGO Dylan Finazzo (10-of-22 FOs, 3 GBs)
FOGO Juan Gonzalez (4-of-8 FOs)
G Gib Versfeld (9 saves, 2 GBs)