Over the past couple weeks, we got to see some outstanding matchups in conference championships. In every tournament we got to see upsets and teams get revenge for losses from the regular season. The results of the tournaments have us set up for an exciting NAIA national tournament this upcoming week. Benedictine, Indiana Tech, and Reinhardt are all playing top-notch lacrosse at the right time. Let’s take a look at each of the conference championship games.
#8 Benedictine (10) – #1 St. Ambrose (8) – KCAC Championship
Coming into this matchup, Benedictine found themselves on the bubble of whether or not they would make the NAIA Lacrosse National Playoffs. There were a small handful of teams that also had a case to be made in regards to earning the final spot. However, there was one way for Benedictine to cement themselves into the tournament, upset the No.1 ranked NAIA lacrosse team in the country, St. Ambrose, and that is exactly what they did. For two teams that leaned on strong offenses for most of the year, this game came down to the defenses stepping up. Both teams came out even and exchanged goals back to back throughout most of the first quarter. Michael Hogan added two in the later half of the first to give Benedictine a two goal advantage.
In the second quarter, each team only managed to add one goal a piece to keep the difference at two going into the latter half. Likely 1st-Team All-KCAC and probable All-American, Brady Guck, took over in the second half scoring two goals in the third. At the start of the fourth quarter, a man-up goal by Cole Danner brought the Bees back within two and it looked like a comeback was in store. However, Benedictine was able to match that blow with a few goals of their own and pushed the lead up to four before a couple late St. Ambrose goals made it close. The Ravens can thank Duncan Loud for 16 saves on 24 shots for being the difference in this game. Benedictine has been playing their best lacrosse down the stretch so it will be interesting to see how they do in the tournament.
#6 Reinhardt (15) – #3 Cumberlands (12) – AAC Championship
It is no secret around the NAIA that these two teams don’t like each other and almost always play in an instant classic. When these teams played a few weeks ago, it took a late fourth quarter rally for Reinhardt to squeak out a one goal win. In this matchup, Cumberlands jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and set the stage for another interesting game. That 4-0 run by the Patriots was met by a Reinhardt 3-0 run to close out the first in a one goal game. In the second quarter, Breckin Sharkey pushed the Cumberlands lead to two with just under ten minutes to go in the half. Starting at the 5:57 mark, thanks to Cameron Cochran and Dillan Bousquet, Reinhardt would score six unanswered in just over three minutes of game-time to completely flip the script. A late Dawson Coltran goal would make it a 6-9 game at the half.
In the third quarter the two teams would continue to battle, and Cumberlands cut the deficit to two. In the fourth, Dawson Coltran would add two more goals and bring the Patriots within one with just under eight minutes remaining, setting the stage for another exciting ending in this one. Unfortunately for Cumberlands, that was the end of the fireworks and they couldn’t manage another goal, while Reinhardt would add two more to make the final 15-12. Both teams have made the NAIA playoffs, but on different sides of the bracket.
#2 Indiana Tech (11) – Siena Heights (1) – WHAC Championship
Two days before this game, Siena Heights got revenge on an Aquinas squad that had defeated them just a week prior. The 9-8 final took a second half comeback and an all out effort from everyone on the Saints roster, but it got them a shot at the WHAC title. Unfortunately, the hopes for another upset and a berth in the NAIA tournament was quickly squashed by the dominant Warriors squad. Louis Czech score the opening goal for IT less than a minute into the game and Josh Bradley added another one just a couple minutes later. That would be all that IT would need to win that game, but they added 3 more goals to extend the lead to 5-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Throughout the remainder of the game, the Warriors would slowly extend their lead until at the end of the third quarter they were up 10-0. Jake Gallaher added a man-up goal a few minutes into the fourth for Siena Heights’ lone score for the day. Indiana Tech has not just been good, but dominant throughout the majority of the season. They’re gunning for a National Championship.
Shortly after the conclusion of the WHAC tournament concluded, the NAIA selection committee got to work to see the NAIA tournament. Take a look at the bracket and get excited for some more high-octane NAIA lacrosse!