Championship Weekend is here and we have some great National Championship matchups in Division 2 and 3 lacrosse. A biased opinion, but many of the more memorable games from Championship Weekend come on Sunday. On the Division 3 side, we have an all Liberty League final with RIT playing Union, running back a one-goal RIT regular season win this time with a lacrosse National Championship on the line. This should be a great game from start to finish as Union makes its first appearance in the title game.
On the Division 2 side of things, we will have two first time programs in the big game, where a first-time winner will be crowned. Tampa is coming in with a 20-0 record to face a gritty Mercy team that avenged its one loss this season to Le Moyne in the semifinals.
Division 3 National Championship
RIT vs. Union – Sunday 1:00pm
RIT is making a return trip to the title game and hoping to repeat against a tough Union squad that is making a Division 3 Lacrosse National Championship appearance for the first time. The defending Division 3 National Champions are making their 12th-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. RIT has reached the quarterfinals 17 times, played in 12 national semifinal games, and will make its fourth appearance in the national championship game, Sunday.
RIT and its juggernaut of an offense enters the weekend seventh in the nation averaging 18.14 goals per game and 13th on Man-Up converting 45.9% of its chances. They are a quick strike offense and have a crazy habit of making teams pay for their mistakes. RIT features 11 players with 20 or more points and 12 players with at least 10 goals. Luke Pilcher leads RIT with 78 points on 58 goals and 20 assists. Quinn Commandant is second with 67 points (42G, 25A) and senior Marley Angus is third in scoring with 63 points (38G, 25A).
Part of the reason for their success on offense is because it’s a total team effort, with their defense getting the green light to push the ball in transition whenever possible. RIT allows 9.05 goals per game and average 10.71 caused turnovers per contest. The Tigers are solid at the faceoff X, but have had some struggles this season, but make up for it with the hustle stats. They are a tremendous groundball team ranking fourth in the nation in GB’s per game, averaging 41.4 groundballs per contest.
Union is entering Championship Weekend averaging 14.75 goals per game, outscoring their opponents 295-183. While they don’t boast the gaudy numbers some of their opponents have had this year, this is truly a balanced team.
The Dutchmen feature seven players with 20 or more points and eight players with 10 or more goals. Burnes leads Union with 84 points on 59 goals and 25 assists. Senior attackman Keaton McCann is second in scoring with 67 points (43G, 24A) and Frey is third with 64 points (36G, 28A).
Defensively, Union allows 9.15 goals per game, causing 9.3 turnovers per contest. The Dutchmen have won 64.9% (349 of 538) of their faceoffs and average 37.1 groundballs per game. The X Factor in this game will be Sophomore faceoff specialist Matthew Paolatto who has won 70.7% of his faceoffs and leads the team with 125 groundballs.
This game is going to come down to the little things and Union’s ability to stop transition and win faceoffs. If they can do that they have as good a chance as anybody to stop the Tigers repeat bid. The battle at the X and in between the boxes is going to be fun to watch for 60 minutes.
Division 2 National Championship
Mercy vs. Tampa – Sunday at 4:00pm
Two great teams fighting it our for their first National Championship. An amazing thing to see and shows how far the division has come in such a short time. Coach Levine has the Mavericks humming and ready to go, while Coach Clarke and the Spartans are chasing the elusive National Championship that many feels is long overdue for a program that has had chances to get there, but has always run into a Limestone, Lenoir-Rhyne, or St. Leo. The path to this point has been different for both teams. Mercy beat defending National Champions Le Moyne 12-11 in double overtime in a game where neither team led by more than one goal while Tampa absolutely took it to Limestone 19-8 and saw them jump out to 17-2 lead after three quarters and cruise into the final.
The Mavericks are coming into the game with a 13-game winning streak. They have a dynamic offense that features some high scoring attackmen and some very athletic midfielders. The offense is led by Dominic Scorcia and Brady Kearnen. Scorcia is second on the team with 73 points on a team-high 51 goals with 22 assists. He set a single-season school record for goals on Sunday and scored the game-winning goal in double overtime against Le Moyne on Sunday. Kearnan leads the team with 80 points on 38 goals and a team-high 42 assists.
Defensively, this is one of the best units in Division 2 and is no stranger to putting the ball on the ground. This is a veteran group that has the ability to play physical and take the game over. The defense is led by Justin Gerdvil who has a team-high 19 caused turnovers with 45 groundballs. Tyler Pjatak comes in with 17 caused turnovers and has 45 groundballs. Senior Sean Rigley has 14 caused turnovers and 16 ground balls. Jack Kipnes is fourth on the team with 16 caused turnovers. Jake Fitzgerald has a team-high-tying 19 caused turnovers with 24 groundballs.
Mercy’s faceoff unit is going to be a key to the game. If they can control the middle of the field and possess the ball they will have a great opportunity to not allow Tampa to get into a rhythm. They have a two headed monster at the X, but expect the lions share to go to PJ Argiros. Argiros leads the team with 74 groundballs and is 135-227 (.595) on faceoffs this season. Sophomore Jason Kuehner is 94-157 (.599) on faceoffs with 41 groundballs.
Tampa is coming in as the No.1 team in the country and has been cemented in that spot for 90% of the season. They make the trip up to Connecticut with a National Championship on their mind after making 8 consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, but never getting past the semfinals.
Offensively, Tampa has some elite level talent that has the ability to score in transition and in 6v6. This is a group that can go on big runs which was evident in the semifinals. They have multiple weapons that can hurt you at the attack or the midfield. They are led by senior Colin White who has a team-high 72 points on a team-high 51 goals with 21 assists. He also has 52 groundballs and 11 caused turnovers. Junior Harry Kilkowski is second on the team with 65 points on 27 goals and a team-high 38 assists. Senior Luke McAnaney has 62 points on 46 goals and 16 assists and senior Owen Miller has 32 goals and 15 assists.
Defensively Tampa has an athletic unit that likes to get out and put the ball on the ground and get it up the field in transition. They are led by two All-Americans in junior Matthew Beddow who has a team-high 45 caused turnovers with 74 groundballs and senior Sean Nizolek who has the ability to erase any player he covers.
Tampa has one of the most dynamic players in the division in goalie Blake Ulmer. Mercy’s success is going to be tied to their ability to get through the defense and get it past Ulmer who is 20-0 in goal with 289 saves, a .637 save percentage and 8.86 goals-against average in 20 starts.
This is going to be an insane game that is more of a home game for Mercy than anything, but with so many Northern players on Tampa’s roster, expect the stadium to have a healthy split. This game will be must watch lacrosse for any die hard fan of the game.