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Saint Leo's Merrimack NCAA D2 Championship 2018 Championships
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Six Reasons I Love the 2018 Championships + Stat Freaks!

We have larger recaps from the 2018 championships already and I’m assuming by this point you know what happened this past week. So I won’t spend much time delving into the games themselves, but here are a few quick thoughts:

  • I love that there were 3 first time winners across all the division. Adding in the New England angle for them all was a bonus for the game being in Gillette. It would be like Penn/Drexel/Villanova taking it next year with Cabrini winning DIII and Chestnut Hill becoming DII champs next year when Championship Weekend returns to Lincoln Financial Field. But I’m not sure Philly could handle all of that right after a Super Bowl.
  • I actually enjoyed the Yale/Albany game. I know most people were bored by it, but I was in total awe of Yale, which does not happen much. From how they played 1:1 defense, to how they recovered and slid, picked up ground balls, worked the fast breaks, found open shooters, and got their hands free. It was just beautiful lacrosse to watch.
  • Game of runs. I mentioned it in my DIII recap, but it was incredible how that entire championship came down to 2 make-it take-it runs for Wesleyan. A four goal run to start the game and a three goal run in the third. Nothing complicated, but some excellent lacrosse for a few minutes followed by suffocating defense won them a championships. It’s a double cliché. Lacrosse is a game of runs. And defense wins championships.
Wesleyan Salisbury NCAA D3 Championship Brian Witmer (23 of 24) 2018 championships
Photo: Brian Witmer
  • Merrimack wanted to win. It was obvious pretty quickly that Merrimack had no interest in entertaining a comeback or letting up. They lost a bitter final last year and they were back to make a statement. They made it.
  • After the DII game, there was a moment of such raw emotion that I could not even watch. I’ll try to snap photos of players off to the side, hugging a teammate, or hanging their head after a loss if I can. It’s part of the game and can be powerful images when telling a story. But while Merrimack was receiving their trophy and rightfully celebrating, a St. Leo’s player stood maybe 30 feet away, in full view with his hands on his hips and just took it all in. It’s an image that however brief is just burned in my head. It’s a classic case of a player burning another image into theirs. It’s that constant reminder of what it is that you’re playing for.
  • Championship weekend reunion. My favorite part of this weekend by far is just seeing people again. All weekend, I see players I’m currently on various teams with, I spend time with the LAS crew, visit our #LaxTwitter friends in real life, and have a chance to connect with people from all over. This is truly the biggest lacrosse party of the year and it makes me sad that more people don’t make this a regular part of their year. The teams change every year and the locations nearly as often. But, what doesn’t change is the chance to celebrate our sport as one big community every May. It’s by far my favorite weekend of the year.

Stat Freaks

Offense: The Cutoff here is a combined 7 goals and/or assists

Ben Reeves – Yale: 5G, 4A, 10 Shots vs. Albany (NY)
Jackson Morrill – Yale: 3G, 5A, 6 Shots vs. Albany (NY)
Sean Black – Merrimack: 3G, 4A, 6 Shots vs. Saint Leo
Christian Thomas – Merrimack: 3G, 7A, 5 Shots vs. Saint Leo

Defense:  For here, you need 8 GBs, CTs, and/or points

Hunter Schmell – Merrimack: 8GB, CT, 1G, 1A vs. Saint Leo
Eric Coburn – Merrimack: 7GB, 1CT vs. Saint Leo

Faceoffs: Greater than 70%, at least 10 attempts

Nobody here.

Goalies:  Greater than 70%

Or here.

Of all the games that happened this weekend, I don’t think it’s a shock to see that Merrimack had several names make it on the list. They had a nearly historic win from a points perspective and they left their main players in pretty late into the game. What was surprising to me was that there wasn’t a single goalie or faceoff guy make the list. It’s not the most shocking thing in the world, but still. Anyway, from Merrimack, Christian Thomas was no surprise even without looking at the stat sheet. He was making things happen all day long.

Two defenders making the list is another thing that just makes sense. The entire reason why goalie Peter Brown isn’t on here is because he just didn’t see that many shots. Only 14 were on cage and he saved 8 of those. The ones that went in were mostly in unsettled situations.

For Yale, Reese and Morrill both had huge games against Albany. Compare that to their first matchup with Albany where Reese scored 3 goals with one assist while Morrill was rather quiet with just a goal. Nice improvement! This is also the game where I have to go with our freak of the week. And for that: Ben Reeves. Not only is that many points just ridiculous, but doing it against a team in the national semi-finals is a step above. When you add that to the fact Yale just played Albany a few weeks ago…it’s that much more impressive.

But for the season, that’s a different story. Here’s our final leaderboard for games in which they had a stat freaks level performance:

Name – School # Position
TD Ierlan – Albany (NY) 14 FOGO
Trevor Baptiste – Denver 10 FOGO
Charlie Hayes – Detroit Mercy 9 SSDM
Kenny Massa – Bryant 8 FOGO
Justin Guterding – Duke 8 Attack
Kyle Walsh – VMI 8 Defense
Michael Sowers – Princeton 7 Attack
Hunter Forbes – Jacksonville 7 FOGO
Reece Eddy – Canisius 7 LSM
Connor Fields – Albany (NY) 7 Attack
Ben Reeves – Yale 7 Attack
Gerard Arceri – Penn St. 6 FOGO
Michael Kraus – Virginia 6 Attack
Pat Spencer – Loyola Maryland 6 Attack
Jeff Teat – Cornell 6 Attack
Conor Mackie – Yale 6 FOGO
Adam Bellamy – Quinnipiac 6 LSM

The number of perfect games between Ierlan and Baptiste is something I don’t think we’ve ever seen before. Sure, players win all the faceoffs in a game, but to do it so many times in the same year is crazy. I think what’s best about this duo is we actually were able to see them against each other in the quarterfinals. Fittingly, they finished 50%. 15-30 each. Both with one turnover. Both with two violations. Where Baptiste separated himself statistically in the head to head was he also had a goal, four shots, a cause turnover, and three more ground balls.

On the season, though It was Ierlan with the edge. Baptiste finished with 8 goals, 2 assists, 163 GBs, and 279 wins. Ierlan had 6 goals, 5 assists, 254 GBs, and 359 wins. He did play in two more game, but that’s a nearly 100 ground ball difference. For the slight edge in points, the monstrous ground ball numbers, and the raw win total, I have to go with TD Ierlan as the 2018 Stats Freaks champ. It was truly a season to remember.

Final Poll

Last but not least, we have one more media poll for the season. Since we also had one before the tournament, I used that as the based and added in the bracket results. The “LW” in this case really means before the tournament, not last week. The one thing I didn’t do was just rehash the bracket. That’s boring. I tried to take a look at how teams compared to expectations.

For example: Robert Morris earned a move up based on how they played Maryland. I also dropped Albany a spot because rather than being 4 just for making the final four, their game there was pretty terrible.

By comparison, the only teams to give Yale any competition since early April were Loyola and Cornell. Based on their other games, I felt warranted a move up. Now, take a quick look at the final ballot of 2018:

  1. Yale LW: 1
  2. Duke LW: 3
  3. Maryland LW: 4
  4. Loyola LW: 7
  5. Cornell LW: 6
  6. Albany LW: 5
  7. Denver LW: 8
  8. Hopkins LW: 2
  9. UVA LW: 9
  10. Syracuse LW: 13
  11. Notre Dame LW: 11
  12. Georgetown LW: 18
  13. UMass LW: 19
  14. Robert Morris LW: 20
  15. Villanova LW: 16
  16. Bucknell LW: 10
  17. Rutgers LW: 12
  18. Navy LW: 14
  19. Penn State LW: 15
  20. Ohio State LW: 17