There was a special feeling in the air last night before the opening whistle of the NAIA Men’s Lacrosse Invitational National Championship. Reinhardt and Indiana Tech truly understood how special this moment was, as just a year ago these players were locked inside their homes not knowing the next time they would be able to touch the field.
The lacrosse world was flipped on it head as the pandemic took away countless spring seasons nationwide with no clear end in sight. Even with all the chaos that has ensued over the past year, both teams lined up waiting for the opening faceoff, ready to leave everything they had on the field and grateful to be playing the Creator’s game.
Reinhardt Ties Bow on Perfect Season with National Championship
(1) Reinhardt 17 – (8) Lourdes 8
Reinhardt showed up ready to play against the Lourdes University Gray Wolves in its quarterfinals matchup. While the Gray Wolves showed the nation that they deserved their spot in this tournament, they were no match for the Eagles. Reinhardt just had too many weapons on the offensive side of the ball and put up 17 goals on a nationally-ranked Lourdes defense. Lourdes had no answer for this Reinhardt team, and rightfully so. Not many teams in the country can compete with Reinhardt.
(4) Keiser 12 – (5) Saint Ambrose 7
The Fighting Bees certainly held their own against Keiser but inevitably came up short in the long run. Saint Ambrose led, 5-3, at halftime, but that advantage would quickly vanish as Keiser outscored its opponent, 6-1, in the third quarter. The Fighting Bees couldn’t overcome this deficit, and Keiser walked away with an impressive 12-7 win to advance to the semifinals. This Keiser team was hot, with three different players recording hat tricks.
(6) Cumberlands 18 – (3) Columbia 12
The Cumberland Patriots finally found their rhythm when it mattered most in the season. While they improved game after game during the duration of the regular season, it seemed like they were heading for a first round exit in the national tournament. They faced off against an undefeated Columbia team that looked ready to prove it could compete against out-of-conference opponents, and compete it did. This game was exciting from start to finish as it came down to the fourth quarter where Thomas Fogarty put the team on his back for the Patriots. He would finish the game with seven goals, with most of them coming when it mattered most, advancing Cumberlands to the next round against Indiana Tech.
(2) Indiana Tech 11 – (7) Benedictine 8
Indiana Tech faced Benedictine in the quarterfinals and was met with a pleasant surprise. This Ravens team drastically improved since it played Indiana Tech earlier in the season. The Warriors tore apart Benedictine back in early March, 20-3, but it was no cakewalk this time around. The Ravens came ready to play, improving on their prior mistakes. The game was close until the third quarter when the Ravens seemingly lost all momentum while Indiana Tech continued to put its foot on the gas. Tech won the game, 11-8, to advance to the semifinals where it was truly tested by a sneaky Cumberlands team.
(1) Reinhardt 9 – (4) Keiser 8
Reinhardt had no issue with Lourdes in the quarterfinals, but a Keiser team with everything to prove was different. We knew Keiser was a good team, but the question was always how good could it be when it mattered most. A weak regular season schedule and lack of conference play left some questioning if the Seahawks even deserved a spot in this tournament.
Keiser would inevitably prove its worth as it kept Reinhardt on the ropes for all four quarters. The Eagles always felt like the clear favorite to win this game, but Keiser certainly made it interesting in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks gained momentum after a phenomenal goal by senior midfield Dylan Sharpe to bring a spark back to their bench. The team’s swagger and confidence served it well as it brought the game to within one goal with five minutes to play. It really seemed like Keiser would do the unthinkable and rob Reinhardt of yet another national title appearance, but it was not to be. Reinhardt’s defense held strong, forcing contested shots and causing turnovers in the closing minutes of the contest. The Eagles were certainly battle tested, which was a nice change of pace considering they have only dominated their opponents all season.
(2) Indiana Tech 10 – (6) Cumberlands 9 (2OT)
I can say with the utmost confidence that this was one of the best lacrosse games I have ever seen.
Indiana Tech was coming off the heels of a physical battle with Benedictine and initially wasn’t ready for a hot Cumberlands team. From the opening faceoff, you could tell the Patriots were playing with a chip on their shoulder as they outscored the Warriors, 4-1, in the first quarter. This assertive offense was shut down by Indiana Tech for the next two quarters as Cumberlands didn’t put another point on the board until the fourth. Indiana Tech quickly flipped a switch after being down three scores as it found its rhythm to put itself up, 7-4, entering the final quarter.
While it never felt like Cumberlands was out of the game, it certainly seemed like it was running out of gas toward the end. The Patriots offense slowly picked away at the Tech defense by maintaining the ball, limiting turnovers, and taking smart shots.
Momentum switched over to Cumberlands as it was putting the ball in the back of the net when the game was on the line. It led in the closing minutes until Indiana Tech’s Emmett Coleman scored a goal in the final 50 seconds to tie the game, 9-9, forcing overtime. The series of events that followed were absolute chaos. Both teams had many opportunities to punch their ticket to the national championship. Cumberlands goalie Michael Toohey truly kept the Patriots in the game, racking up five highlight reel saves in overtime.
But it wasn’t enough. Indiana Tech’s Andrew Ryan found the back of the net in double overtime to send his team one win closer to a national title. Battled and bruised, the Warriors left everything they had on the field.
(1) Reinhardt 17 – (2) Indiana Tech 8
Although it certainly wasn’t an easy path, the top two seeded teams in the tournament found their way to the championship game. This contest was a rematch of a Reinhardt victory, 11-10, in early March, and it was the ideal championship matchup – both squads were decidedly the top two teams in the nation. The Eagles aimed to continue their winning tradition and add a fourth-straight national championship to their program’s trophy case. Indiana Tech looked mentally and physically ready all season for this moment, tired of falling short in big games.
Reinhardt head coach John Snow can truly be crowned “King of the North” now.
His Eagles squad dismantled the Warriors, 17-8, in a game that never felt close. From the opening faceoff, it was very clear which team was mentally ready to compete. Reinhardt played some of the most physical and gritty lacrosse I have ever seen. This team was out for blood, and it certainly got what it was looking for, outscoring Indiana Tech, 8-1, in the first quarter. The Warriors looked like deer in headlights as their game plan meant nothing to their opposition.
Reinhardt closed out its perfect season, bringing home a fourth national championship in a row and forever cementing its undefeated legacy.
It was a mental game. Reinhardt’s experience and confidence allowed it to take the game into its own hands. This program is really in a league of its own; Snow has created something special in Waleska, Georgia. Reinhardt consists of almost entirely Georgia natives, and that’s felt at all of its games. I’d argue Reinhardt has the best fans in all of NAIA lacrosse as they bring the same level of intensity to the stands that the team brings onto the field. This program has become the pinnacle for what an NAIA program can be. The Eagles have done all the little thing correctly, which has led to their historic impact on the sport.
NAIA Women’s Lacrosse National Championship
Keiser completed an undefeated season of its own on the women’s side, winning a tight one over Cumberlands in the title game, 13-11. Click here to learn more about how it all went down from the tournament’s semifinals and on.