From warm-ups onward, the crowd was clearly in Cabrini Men’s Lacrosse’s favor today. A deafening crowd, overwhelmingly blue, rocked the lower bowl of the Linc today, as the Cavaliers made their first championship appearance in program history, and they responded by bringing Cabrini its first-ever national championship in any sport. Despite a hot start by Amherst, the Cavaliers stayed true to their game plan, and got the return of an unlikely hero, to win it.
How Cabrini Men’s Lacrosse did it:
A handful of huge stops by White kept them in things in the first half, despite a massive shooting advantage for the Mammoths. Down 3-1 early, the Cavs found themselves being outgunned, beaten to ground balls, and spending time in the penalty box for three first half penalties. A perfect storm could easily have formed for the Mammoths to take a commanding lead, but credit White and the defense for playing aggressively, sliding early to contest Amherst’s shots and forcing them into a ton of wing shots. Amherst threw up 26 shots in the first half alone, but despite having ten more shots than the Cavs, the Mammoths only managed two more shots on goal. The two-goal deficit became three in the second quarter, and, at 6-3 with 8:55 remaining in the second quarter, things were starting to look good for the Mammoths entering a Cabrini timeout.
Whatever the timeout speech was, it certainly did the trick. 35 seconds after calling timeout, Cabrini scored on a goal from Tyler Kostack, starting a run that saw them score three goals in one minute and two seconds to tie the game at six goal a piece entering halftime. Despite the run, Cabrini Men’s Lacrosse did not have the numbers to suggest them being the breakout team. They were outshot 25-16, out GB’d 19-13, and was the more penalized lacrosse team to boot. The 6-6 score was the first tie since the opening faceoff, and, weirdly, the first halftime tie that either team had faced this season. In another weird twist, the twelve first-half goals were each scored by a different individual player, as both teams relied on a balanced attack rather than a single superstar.
The second half, however, was an offensive explosion from Cabrini. A third quarter team if there ever was one (the Cavs outscored opponents by 62 goals in the third period of games this year), the Cavs took their first lead of the game at the 11:36 mark, as Jordan Krug scored to put them up 8-7 after the two teams exchanged goals early. All of a minute later, Amherst tied things back up. Amherst, at the time, led in shooting by 11, and in GBs by 10, and seemed the far more likely team to break out. They’d forced turnovers on four of the Cavs’ ten clearing attempts, and, outside of saves and faceoffs, led in all statistical categories. However, a huge diving goal from Kyle Tucker, his second of the game, gave Cabrini its second lead of the game, and they quickly followed that up with another from Kostack to take their first two-goal lead of the day. However, entering the last minute of play, Amherst scored, and Cabrini was assessed an illegal body check that would put them man-down for the remainder of the period.
The Cavalier man-down defense came up clutch, killing the penalty at the start of the fourth quarter, and then following that up with a quick goal from Tucker, completing his hat trick, to regain a two goal lead. Amherst followed with its first flag of the game, and, twelve seconds into the EMO, the unlikely hero emerged. Timmy Brooks, who only Saturday night was cleared for full contact after breaking his collarbone in February, stung the top corner to give Cabrini its thirteenth goal, and that EMO rip would prove to be the game-winner. An Amherst timeout attempted to break the Cavs’ momentum, but right out of the timeout, RJ Wolf scooped the ensuing faceoff and buried a pole goal for Cabrini to push the lead to 14-10. Amherst would get one back shortly thereafter, but it was Brooks again at the other end, who scored his second of the game to push the Cabrini lead back to four.
Colin Minicus attempted to provide the necessary spark for the Mammoths, scoring a stunning backhanded crease dive to cut the lead back to three, but the Mammoths never managed another goal. White made two saves in quick succession for Cabrini, who managed to regain possession on Amherst’s twelfth turnover with 4:32 remaining. As the Cavs attempted to milk the shot clock, Jordan Krug took a huge check to the helmet, nearly ripping his bucket off, and the Cavs quickly scored an and-one goal from Morgan, his third. That combination proved to be a backbreaker, as Cabrini took over possession with 3:20 remaining in the game and burned off the entire shot clock. A timeout with 1:39 remaining was not able to draw up the score the Mammoths needed, and Cabrini stole the ball with 1:25 remaining in the game, taking another thirty seconds off the clock before Amherst recovered the ball too late. The clock quickly expired, and Cabrini took home its first-ever national championship.
What it means for Cabrini:
I mean, they’re not just first-time champions in lacrosse, but the first title team in school history. This means everything. Coach Colfer teared up as he described the unconditional love his team has for one another after the game. The players themselves seemed were admittedly nearly too stunned to speak, as Most Outstanding Player Kyle Tucker described the win as “so unreal, I still can’t believe what happened.”
Perhaps the biggest victor of the night was Timmy Brooks, whose two fourth-quarter goals had his head coach raving about him. Colfer admitted after the game that Brooks, who had only been playing on EMO this tournament after returning from injury, had only gotten the official green light to play fully from his surgeon on Saturday night, less than 24 hours before the title game. Brooks’ story is an amazing one, and helps to describe the journey that Cabrini has gone on to be champions. A member of Richmond’s inaugural recruiting class, Brooks dropped out of school in fear of failing drug tests, and was soon after sent to prison for marijuana distribution. Sobering up and returning to the lacrosse field after, he received a second chance from Coach Colfer, and has made the absolute best of it. “It’s the thing that movies are written about,” Colfer said after the game, as he described the long and arduous journey Brooks took to the title game. Cleared to play at the last second, and stepping into the regular rotation after an early injury, Brooks stepped up and scored the game-winner. Coach Colfer compared this run by Cabrini to that of another Philly team, the 2018 Super Bowl champion Eagles, whose captain, Jason Kelce, is actually a friend of the Cabrini Men’s Lacrosse program. “(Watching yesterday’s games) was eerie. 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 2017.” said Colfer. “I told (Kelce) that and he was laughing, and he said, that’s a pretty good omen, that’s a pretty good omen.” If this team is the Eagles, then Brooks is their Nick Foles, and what a storybook ending for the senior.
What this means for Amherst:
Playing in their first-ever championship game, the Mammoths showed up to play. This was a hard-fought game that easily could have gone either way, and Amherst won many facets of today’s game. Playing in the dreaded NECSAC, Amherst has often been an underdog and a punching bag throughout its history, and this season has flipped the script and offered the Mammoths a way to become one of the top dogs in the conference, and in division III as a whole. Although this is not how they wanted the season to end, it was still an amazing season for the Mammoths, who defeated the defending champions, Wesleyan, and Tufts to get here today. Although they graduate all-everything attackman Evan Wolf, the 2019 Player of the Year, the squad returns a ton of talent for 2020, and could definitely be a team to keep an eye on for next year’s tournament as well.
Player of the Game:
The NCAA itself gave this honor to Kyle Tucker, who capped off a great postseason with 3G 1A today to lead the Mammoths. Brooks is another obvious contender for this spot, and I think White has a case to be made, as his 11 saves kept Cabrini in things early. However, for my money, I think today’s MVP was Jordan Krug, the attackman and the Cavs’ leading scorer this season. Krug finished the game with two goals, but, in a game where only six goals were assisted for Cabrini, also led his team with three assists. He had a monster game as a distributor, and one can’t overlook that it was his drawn penalty, followed shortly by an assist, that proved the backbreaker for Amherst. That goal gave Cabrini Men’s Lacrosse its final score of 16, and also allowed the Cavs to burn an entire 90 second shot clock off the game before allowing Amherst to regain possession. Krug also led the Cavs in points today, as he did all season, and for that reason, he’s my pick for Player of the Game.