NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack men’s lacrosse coach Mike Morgan knew he had a special player in freshman attack Charlie Bertrand, but even he is surprised at the season the rookie sensation has put together.
Bertrand leads the Warriors with 74 points in 17 games, including 51 goals and 23 assists. He was named NE10 Rookie of the Week a whopping five times and was also the USILA’s National Offensive Player of the Week on April 27.
(Ed. Note – This story will also appear in Saturday’s Eagle Tribune)
Now, Bertrand helps lead the Warriors into Sunday’s national championship game against Limestone (2 p.m.) at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
Even playing for a program with a rich history like Merrimack, Bertrand’s freshman season is something few have touched.
“He’s pretty much averaged three (goals) and two (assists) all year,” Morgan said. “I haven’t seen that here since Greg Rogowski.”
Rogowski, an NE10 Hall of Famer, had 108 points and 71 goals as a rookie in 2006. After Merrimack, he has competed professionally and for Team USA at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships.
“Charlier is a great worker, and the guys all see that he has bought in,” Morgan said. “He’s respectful, and the guys have really embraced him. With some teams, you have a freshman come in who takes 120 shots, and it could create some waves, but Charlie’s so unselfish. At some point, and we’ve been on him, we told him that we’d like to see him shoot even more.”
If you didn’t know better, you would have thought Bertrand was a lock for Le Moyne during the recruiting process. He grew up just a few miles away in Baldwinsville, N.Y. and his brother, Ron, played for the Dolphins. Le Moyne has also become one of Merrimack’s top rivals, regularly competing in NE10 championships and NCAA Tournaments.
But, there was one thing Merrimack offered that Le Moyne couldn’t — a top engineering school.
“I wanted to go into engineering and Merrimack is an awesome engineering school,” Bertrand said on Wednesday. “I also really liked the small campus here. As soon as I came here, I knew it was the best fit for me. I wanted to go to a program where I could make a difference, and I knew Merrimack was always knocking on the door.”
The Warriors traveled to Le Moyne twice in recent weeks, falling in double-overtime in the NE10 semifinals before going back to Syracuse the very next week, knocking off the Dolphins in the NCAA Quarterfinals. Needless to say, there was a large Bertrand contingent in the stands.
“It was a little nuts,” he said. “I knew some of my friends and family would be there, but I looked up and there was this huge pack of people, more than I expected. It was definitely cool playing in my hometown.”
Even cooler was the Warriors getting the win to move on in the NCAAs.
At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Bertrand presents a huge matchup problem for opponents. There’s just not many teams that have someone with that combination of size and speed, and it makes covering him, as the offensive totals suggest, difficult to do.
But the goals and assists pale in comparison to the wins, Bertrand says. This Sunday, the Warriors have a chance to win their first national championship. For Bertrand, he has a chance to give the seniors that helped him so much during his freshman year, the greatest graduation present.
“I didn’t really expect all this,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be here playing this weekend and playing with these guys, they’ve made it so easy coming in. The biggest thing was staying loose and not playing tight. The game is a lot faster here. The older guys, especially the seniors, they helped me so much back in the fall, teaching us younger guys where to be and how we could get better. They set a great example for us and I don’t think the transition to college lacrosse would have been so easy if it wasn’t for them.
“I was watching the last few years at home, and when they did play at Le Moyne, I would go. Seeing them get so close, I wanted to come in and help any way I could. Then when I got here, all the older guys have helped me so much, we all really want to do this for them.”