When Merrimack traveled to Long Island last month to face Adelphi, head coach Mike Morgan knew that, one way or another, that game would be the tipping point or the rest of the season.
“We were either going to win, and it would give us a ton of confidence down the stretch, or we were going to lose and it would show us that we still had a lot of work to do,” he said.
The Warriors lost. In convincing fashion, in fact, falling 17-8.
Merrimack’s record has been nearly unblemished since, only losing at Le Moyne.
Sunday, the Warriors are in Philadelphia to take on Limestone in the 2019 national championship game. The Warriors are looking to claim their second straight national championship after winning the title last year at Gillette Stadium.
“We showed up to play against Adelphi, and they showed up to compete,” Morgan said. “They were super motivated and it made us realize that we were good, but we needed to work a lot harder. We learned a ton about ourselves that game.
“Honestly, it wasn’t until after that game that I thought we could win a national championship. We didn’t know how much fight and resolve we had. Teams need to be tough, and the way we came back from that loss, we showed a lot of toughness. We learned how tough we had to be coming out of that game.”
Not that a team needs any more motivation when playing for a national title, but this is Merrimack’s last chance to claim a championship for at least the next four years. Making the transition to Division I later this year in the fall, Merrimack will have to endure a four-year transitional period where they’ll be ineligible for the postseason.
“It’s been a message all year,” Morgan said. “Once we announced D-I, I told our guys that they’re all seniors. This is everyone’s last chance and everything’s at stake.
“Once we started getting towards the end of April, I think that became a reality. They had been hearing it since the fall, but in late April it started to sink in. You can see the urgency now. None of these guys will have a chance to win another national title after Sunday. It’s a next-level focus we’re seeing right now. We’re bringing a high-level of focus and desire.”