Another year and another NAIA Lacrosse National Championship is in the books. This year originally appeared to be different that others due to the level of competitiveness coming out of the AAC and the KCAC. St. Ambrose was on a tear all year, Reinhardt lost a rare early season matchup, and Indiana Tech was having their way with everyone they played. Teams like Tennessee Wesleyan and Benedictine also had a dog in the fight as both teams proved they could hang with the big dogs this season.
Reinhardt refused to listen to any of the noise and walked away with the NAIA Lacrosse National Championship for a fifth straight season.
Let’s breakdown every game from the NAIA Men’s Lacrosse National Championship Tournament to a get a better idea of how Reinhardt was able to secure another ring.
#1 Indiana Tech (20) – #8 Benedictine (14)
If you read my previous article, I highlighted Andrew Ryan as the No.1 player to watch out for in this matchup and he lived up to the billing. He didn’t waste any time and scored twice in a 39 second span in the first quarter to give the Warriors at 2-0 lead. The Ravens added a goal shortly after, but then both teams would exchange three goal runs to end the first period at a score of 5-4.
In the second quarter, the IT offense seemingly couldn’t be stopped as they scored eight goals in the period as the Ravens could only muster a pair of goals. After the half, Benedictine came out like a team that knew they were going home if they lost. James Carson and Jordan Rodriguez added two goals each as Benedictine would outscore them 5-1 and cut the lead to 11-14 going into the final period.
Unfortunately, that was all the momentum the Ravens could muster and a IT 4-0 run at the start of the fourth would put the game out of reach for an eventual 20-14 game. Andrew Ryan finished with six goals and a career best four assists on the day. Eleven different warriors scored in the contest and five players had two or more goals.
#2 Reinhardt (16) – #7 Keiser (6)
Back in March, in a double overtime thriller, Keiser handed Reinhardt their first loss in years. Three weeks ago, the two teams met again in the AAC tournament where they kept the game close, but a strong second half for the Eagles gave them the win. In their third matchup of the year, we were hoping for another instant classic and early on it looked like we might have one. Keiser was the first to strike with two goals in the first ten minutes.
However, over the final five minutes of the quarter, Reinhardt would go on a quick 3-0 run to take the lead. In the second quarter, Cameron Cochran would add one just over a minute in which was soon matched by Cole Stassi. Again, Reinhardt would end the quarter on a 3-0 run to give them a 7-3 halftime lead. That was about as this game would come however, as Keiser couldn’t keep up with the Eagles prominent offense in the second half and the final would eventually come to 16-6. Cameron Cochran was the top scorer, pouring in four goals as well as adding an assist while Dillan Bousquet added two goals and 4 Assists.
#3 St. Ambrose (5) – #6 Aquinas (10)
These two teams were very familiar with each other, having met back on March 21, in a game that ended with a Fighting Bees victory in a back and forth, high scoring affair. The second go around couldn’t have been more different in every aspect. Instead, both defenses and goalies stepped up in this one, especially Aquinas. Not sure if it was the travel, the heat, or just the upped tempo from the Saints, but the Bees’ offense had no life and could only muster a single goal in the entire first half.
In the first half, Mitch Haggart did what he does best, score. He did it three times including a goal two seconds before the half ended coming off a full field Gilman assist from one of his defensemen. In the second half, St. Ambrose still couldn’t get much going thanks to the stifling Aquinas defense and Clayton Boerigter. Boerigter couldn’t have played much better in cage making 21 total saves and only allowing five goals.
#4 Cumberlands (8) – #5 Tennessee Wesleyan (7)
Another AAC Tournament rematch showed us an interesting result. In this one, Thomas Fogarty came out as a man on a mission and scored three of the team’s four goals in the first quarter. Jackson Lollis and Jaylan Steen would each add one a piece to keep at it 4-2 after one. After the initial flurry of scoring, both defenses settled in for the rest of the game and kept this one low scoring. Christian Vanover was the only player to score in the second quarter, adding one on a man-up goal just over 30 seconds in, and adding one another in the final two minutes of the half. Astoundingly, TWU got off 19 shots in the second but were held scoreless.
Less than a minute into the second half, Thomas Fogarty put one in unassisted. The five goal lead seemed like it would be insurmountable based on how the teams had been playing at that point. However, Austin Hall and the TWU defense stepped up to an elite level while the offense did everything they could to come back. At the start of the fourth quarter, Kyle Gasior would score his second of the game bring the Patriot lead down to one. Fogarty would score on a feed from Christian Vanover to push the lead back to two with six minutes left. With just over two minutes to go in the game Jackson Lollis would bring the Bulldogs back within one.
Gasior won the ensuing face-off and it looked like TWU still had life. After a Bulldog turnover, Cumberlands would turn the ball back to the Bulldogs on the ensuing clear. The Bulldogs took a timeout and drew up their best look, but it wasn’t good enough to find the back of the net and the Patriots would hold on for the win.
#1 Indiana Tech (11) – #4 Cumberlands (8)
With two of the best teams in the country squaring off, we were in for a show and this one lived up to the hype. Thomas Fogarty coming off his five goal game the day prior stayed hot and got the Patriots on the board first. Through the remainder of the first quarter, the teams would exchange a couple goals and no one cemented themselves ahead of each other. In the second, the Patriots scored back-to-back goals from Fogarty and Dylan Crouch to give themselves a two goal lead briefly. Shortly afterwards, Indiana Tech would net a couple goals themselves to get the score back to even. With just over 20 seconds remaining in the half Devin Macomber capitalized on a great feed from Samuel Bodley to give Indiana Tech a one goal advantage going into the half, but this one was far from over.
In the second half, the Warriors did what they’ve done so well all season and come out hot after the halftime break. Andrew Ryan and Bodley would each score early in the third quarter. Every time Cumberlands would start to gain momentum, it was soon matched by Indiana Tech. They continued to exchange a couple of goals in the fourth but the Patriots couldn’t cut the lead to less than three. Kyle TwoBulls made a couple huge stops on a man-down situation which sealed the win for Tech.
#2 Reinhardt (14) – #6 Aquinas (4)
After Aquinas upset the No.3 Fighting Bees, they looked to keep up their NAIA Lacrosse National Championship Cinderella run against No.2 Reinhardt. Early on, it looked like they might just do it! After Titus Thind opened up the scoring early on, the rest of the first quarter was dominated by the Saints. Haggart scored twice and Jon Jardis added one of his own to give Aquinas a 3-1 lead after the first 15 minutes. Tyler Wilkinson cut the lead to one but that was again matched shortly afterwards by a goal from AQ’s Kyle Gauthier.
From that point however, something changed. The Reinhardt D couldn’t be penetrated and Liam Wright stepped up in cage with 11 saves. The Eagles would end the game on a 12-0 scoring run including goals from 11 different players. It appeared as though the Saints team ran out of gas in the hot Florida sun. The final score of 14-4 showed just how dominant the Eagles are.
#1 Indiana Tech (5) – #2 Reinhardt (11)
For the fifth time in as many years, the Reinhardt Eagles finished the season winning the NAIA Lacrosse National Championship. Coming into the season, many questioned whether this team was capable of repeating having lost their head coach and many important pieces, but as they’ve shown time after time, it’s a next man up mentality for the Eagles.
In the 2022 rendition of a NAIA Lacrosse National Championship run, Reinhardt never trailed. JR Sess won the opening face-off and the offense quickly capitalized on a goal from Titus Thind less than a minute into the game. Sess was one of the the main catalysts for the Eagles success, going 17-19 on face-offs, and keeping the ball in his own teams’ sticks away from the lethal IT offense. They added another goal from Cameron Cochran shortly thereafter to take a 2-0 lead. Joe Solin opened the scoring for the Warriors on a dime from Nate Langille about halfway through the quarter. Reinhardt extended their lead on back-to-back goals, but a man-down goal from Emmett Coleman cut the lead back to two before first quarter ended.
In the second quarter, neither team could pull away and it looked like the teams were giving us the heavyweight title fight we all expected. Indiana Tech’s Langille cut the lead to one, but again Sess won the ensuing face-off and pushed transition leading to a fast-break goal from Titus Thind. Andrew Ryan would finally enter the conversation on an unassisted goal with just over three minutes to go in the half. With just over a minute to play in the half, a man-up goal from Louis Czech brought us to an even score briefly. Shortly after, Bousquet would add his first of three goals on the day to give the Eagles a one goal lead heading into halftime.
Throughout the season both teams would dial up their play to the next level. It was interesting to see who would do a better job of that in this match-up. It was quickly evident that the answer was clearly Reinhardt, and especially their defense. The Reinhardt D and Liam Wright in net would not allow another goal for the rest of the game. In the third quarter, Bousquet and Thind would each add another to give Reinhardt a 8-5 lead. In the fourth, Bousquet would complete his own Hat Trick and the team would add a couple more for good measure to make the final score 11-5.
Congrats to the Reinhardt Eagles for their fifth straight NAIA Lacrosse National Championship!