Merrimack travels to face rival Le Moyne in NCAA semifinal

photo: Jim Stankiewicz/Merrimack

After a pair of road wins in a three-day span assured the program’s fifth straight appearance in the semifinal round of the national tournament, the seventh-ranked Merrimack College men’s lacrosse team will close its storied rivalry with top-seeded Le Moyne College when the two schools meet on Saturday (May 18) afternoon at Ted Grant Field. A trip to the title game of the 2019 NCAA Division II Men’s Lacrosse Championship is at stake, with game time set for 12 p.m.
Merrimack in the NCAA Championship

  • Merrimack is back in the national tournament for a program-record fifth straight season and sixth time overall in program history; the previous five occasions were in 2009 and 2015-18.
  • Merrimack, the defending national champions, has won five straight NCAA Tournament games dating back to last year; the Warriors dominated on their way to the national title in 2018, averaging a 14-goal margin of victory in all three postseason games last spring culminating in their 23-6 thrashing of Saint Leo in the national final.
  • The Warriors will be aiming to return to the NCAA Championship Final for the third straight year. In addition to last May’s victory, they came within two goals of winning it all in 2017 in an eventual 11-9 setback against Limestone.
  • Merrimack has reached the semifinal round of the national tournament in all of the six years it has qualified, including this season to extend its streak to a nation-high five straight seasons; in 2009, there was only a four-team field, hence the Warriors earning a berth straight to the semifinals, but Merrimack has won at least one game in the other five years it has reached the national tournament (including this year).
  • The defending champions will have to embrace the Road Warrior mentality to reach the title game for a third straight year; with the bracket expanding to six teams on each side, sixth-seeded Merrimack has had to travel to all three teams it has faced up until this point, including Saturday’s semifinal showdown.
  • The Warriors’ all-time record in the NCAA Tournament stands at 9-4, including 3-0 at home and 5-3 on the road, as well as 1-1 at a neutral site (Gillette Stadium – 2017).
  • Merrimack’s most frequent NCAA Tournament opponent is Le Moyne (1-3), followed by Adelphi (3-0), LIU Post (1-0), Mercyhurst (1-0), NYIT (1-0), Limestone (0-1), Saint Leo (1-0) and Seton Hill (1-0).

Five Things to Know:

  • Merrimack concluded the regular season with a 13-3 overall record (7-0 at home). They finished in a three-way tie for first place in the NE10 and earned a share of the conference’s regular season crown but were seeded third in the tournament due to the goal differential tiebreaker. The Warriors were denied a chance to repeat as league champions after falling to Le Moyne on the road, 12-11, in a wild semifinal bout, but they assured another shot at the Dolphins after posting a pair of victories in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament last week with road at Mercyhurst (16-5) and Adelphi (14-12) to reach the national semifinals.
  • Recording no fewer than 12 goals in all but two games this season, Merrimack owns the NE10’s best scoring offense (and the country’s third-best), averaging 16.00 goals per game. They also boast the nation’s third-ranked man-up offense that converts at 47.7 percent. The Warriors have also taken care of the ball well, as indicated by their 15.44 turnovers per game (sixth-fewest in the country) and an 82.3-percent clearing percentage.
  • Junior Charlie Bertrand continues to back up his status as one of the nation’s best overall players with 84 points on the strength of 69 goals and 15 assists in 14 games. He leads the country in points per game (6.00) and goals per game (4.93), while sophomore Sean Black leads the country in assists per game (3.94) and ranks fifth in scoring average (5.65); he is up to a team-high 97 points on the season (30g, 67a). Sophomore Christian Thomas rounds out the “big three” with 86 points (46g, 40a) and ranks in the top-15 nationally in assists and scoring averages. Altogether, they combine for 267 points – no other team in the country boasts a top-three scoring tandem with as many points.
  • Junior goalkeeper Nick Ponte has put together a strong season in net, owning the nation’s 11th-best save percentage (.563) and goals-against average (9.03).
  • Merrimack and Le Moyne will conclude a hotly contested head-to-head series that has provided plenty of entertainment over the years. While Le Moyne leads the ledger, 29-11, Merrimack has gone 2-2 in its last four, including the two teams’ most recent NCAA matchup – a 10-5 road win back in May of 2017. Le Moyne won the NE10 Tournament and eased by Mercy in the quarterfinal round of the national tournament to enter Saturday 16-2 overall. Matt Hutchings leads the Dolphins with 63 points (35g, 28a) while Riley Larson’s 39 goals are most on the squad. Sam Kury has gone 60.7-percent on the faceoff X (142-of-234), while Zac Prattson’s 23 caused turnovers are most on the squad. Riley Smith has started all 18 games and owns a .579 save percentage and 7.02 goals against average.

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