Men's Lacrosse

Merrimack, Limestone coaches break down the national championship matchup

Limestone and Merrimack have been the preeminent Division II college lacrosse programs over the last three years. The programs met in the 2017 national championship game — a Limestone victory at Gillette Stadium — and the Warriors responded last year with their own national championship, thrashing Saint Leo in convincing fashion.

This Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, they meet again, and someone will make it two out of the last three; the Warriors are looking to make it two in a row.

The programs aren’t close geographically — Limestone is from South Carolina — but in terms of competitiveness, no program can match what the Warriors and Saints have done the last three seasons.

Merrimack will be making its third straight trip to the championship game and looking to become the first repeat champion since Limestone did it in 2016 and 2017. The Saints are looking to reclaim the top spot in Division II college lacrosse and enter Sunday’s final undefeated on the season (20-0).

“Merrimack looks similar offensively (in how they play) but I think they’re better than they were,” said Limestone head coach J.B. Clarke. “I think they’re better at the attack than they were two years ago. They’re a program that is moving to D-I, and Coach Morgan has said it, but they have a D-I attack right now. All three of those guys are phenomenal. They’ve got guys who are big and strong and then others who are short and quick.

“Defensively they look the same. They’re long and rangy and take up a lot of room. Their long guys are really tough to get around and they push the ball the way they have in the past.”

Clarke said his team’s biggest challenge will be finding a way to slow down Merrimack’s prolific offense. Junior attack Charlie Bertrand is the top-scoring player in the nation and the Warriors have the third-best scoring average nationally (Limestone is No. 1).

“They score a ton of goals and the biggest challenge for us will be in the D end for sure,” Clarke said. “If you gang up on their attacks, then the middies can beat you. You really have to pick your poison, and I’m not sure which one you can pick.”

Morgan said that the Saints also look similar in how they approach the game, even though some of the personnel is different than 2017.

“They’re always good at the X and they’re tough to stop offensively,” he said. “They’re long and athletic on defense. The one thing I notice is that they look a lot like us last year, in that they don’t have an abundance of upperclassmen. They have more of a mix like we have. The team looks the same as far as style, but it downs down to leadership and experience and how you’re playing right now. They’re tough and well coached and obviously skilled, but we need to play our game.”

Merrimack and Limestone will decide a national champion on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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