Warriors Claim Second-Straight NCAA Championship with 16-8 Win Over Limestone.
PHILADELPHIA – Twice is nice for the Merrimack men's lacrosse program, which successfully defended its national title by doubling up top-ranked and undefeated Limestone College, 16-8, in the 2019 NCAA Division II Men's Lacrosse Championship on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
The Warriors, who went on an unprecedented run through the national tournament as the No. 6 seed and needed three straight road wins to punch a return ticket to the title game, will close their Division II era on top of the country for a second-straight season.
In a rematch of the 2017 championship game, it was Merrimack that exacted revenge from that two-goal setback, taking a 9-3 lead into the half thanks to a six-goal second quarter before weathering a storm by the Saints in the third, who were able to get to within three goals at one point.
But that was the closest the score would get the rest of the way, as Merrimack assured its second straight title – and fourth overall among all of Merrimack's teams in school history – with another six-goal surge in the final frame to go out on top.
Appropriate enough, the nation's top player for each of the past two seasons – junior Charlie Bertrand – penned another incredible ending to a season with seven points on Sunday. He was one of eight different Warriors with a goal, while classmate Nick Ponte posted a 60-percent save percentage on the other end with 12 stops. Sophomore Davis Cronin was also excellent on the X, winning 18-of-27 faceoffs.
Score: Merrimack 16, Limestone 8
Records: #7 Merrimack (17-3, 10-1 NE10) | #1 Limestone (20-1, 7-0 CC)
Location: Lincoln Financial Field | Philadelphia, Pa.
- Merrimack's offense got the ball rolling early, scoring within the first three minutes of the contest. Sophomore Christian Thomas netted the first score of the afternoon, an unassisted goal to put the Warriors ahead. Brother junior Dom Thomas followed suit, scoring on a feed inside from Max Morrill to double the lead.
- Limestone battled back, scoring its first goal of the game with under 10 minutes left in the first to cut Merrimack's lead in half. But Bertrand answered with less than two minutes left in the first, garnering his first point of the afternoon in spectacular fashion to make it 3-1 after 15 minutes.
- Limestone would get within one again just 17 seconds into the second quarter. The Saints would then draw level at the 13-minute mark to even the score at 3-3.
- But Merrimack would punch back by utilizing an extra-man opportunity to add two goals and retake the lead. After freshman Drew Hailey scored the team's fourth tally, a slash gave the Warriors a man-advantage, and Bertrand picked up his second straight assist with a feed to junior Tyler Liantonio, putting Merrimack up by two with 11 minutes left in the half.
- Sophomore Sean Black picked up his first goal of the afternoon on another Bertrand assist, doubling the lead with six remaining in the first half – the sophomore was able to get free from his man and was left alone outside the crease, going bottom-left for the sixth Warrior goal of the half.
- Senior Michael O'Connell got his first of the day with 2:15 left in the half, scoring unassisted before senior Seamus Ford scored from just outside the crease on a turnaround jumper, making it 8-3. Christian Thomas buried his second of the afternoon to wrap up the run of six uninterrupted markers to send the defending national champs into the locker room with a six-goal cushion (9-3).
- Black jumpstarted the second half with Merrimack's seventh straight tally, working behind the net and coming around nearside and went top-left, making it 10-3 in the opening seconds of the third quarter.
- That, however, was Merrimack's lone tally of the third frame. Limestone would claw back with four straight markers to close out the penultimate quarter of the season trailing by three (10-7).
- But Bertrand pushed the seesaw of momentum back in Merrimack's favor with his second of the game thanks to another highlight-reel goal to start the fourth, and that pendulum of momentum never swung back. On a feed from Dom Thomas, Bertrand went behind-the-back, scoring with double coverage on him to make it 11-7. He picked up a hat trick minutes later off a Black assist, extending the lead to five.
- Limestone answered while up a man, but Christian Thomas hit the hat trick mark to restore the five-goal lead, and the lead was never less than that the rest of the way.
- Dom Thomas scored shortly after that off a Morrill feed to give the Warriors a six-goal lead. He got another one a minute later – another wide open shot outside the crease – to secure his own hat trick to make it 15-8. Bertrand went on to pick up an empty-netter, scoring the game's final goal and securing Merrimack's second straight national championship.
- Bertrand concluded his incredible junior season with four goals and three assists, finishing with a school-record 78 goals and 97 overall points.
- Black and Christian Thomas were right behind him; Black's two goals and three assists combined with Thomas's three goals and an assist. The former concluded his sophomore campaign with a team-high 107 points (32g, 75a), becoming just the second player in school history to record 100-plus points in a season and finished one point behind the single-season record of 108 points set by Greg Rogowski '09 in 2006.
- Dom Thomas finished with three goals and an assist for a four-point outing, as the Warriors saw eight different goal scorers to buoy the nation's most dangerous offense.
- Cronin won 18-of-27 faceoffs (66.7%), coming up with several big wins down the stretch and had 11 ground balls.
- Ponte was huge between the pipes, stopping 12 of the 18 shots he saw (66.7%) to wrap up the win and conclude his first season as a starter as a national champion.
- The Warriors reached their third straight national title game and extended their NCAA Championship winning streak to seven games, both the longest active streaks in the country among all three NCAA Divisions.
- Merrimack will wrap up its all-time series with Limestone trailing by a game (3-4) but with last laughs after taking the national title on Sunday. This was the two teams' first meeting since the 2017 national title game that Limestone won by an 11-9 score.
- Shots: 47-33 (32-20 SOG)
- EMO: 0-3 // 2-3
- Faceoffs: 18-9 // Ground Balls: 38-24
- Turnovers (CT): 9-11 (4-3) // Clears: 16-19 // 14-14
BACK TO BACK!!— NCAA Division II (@NCAADII) May 26, 2019
Congratulations to The Merrimack Warriors, your 2019 #D2LAX National Champions!! They knock off Limestone College, 16-8 to defend their 2018 title!!#MakeItYours pic.twitter.com/C9Pbf0SFQi
-Release provided by Merrimack athletic communications staff-
ABOUT THE NE10
The NE10 is an association of 15 diverse institutions serving student-athletes across 24 NCAA Division II sports. Together we build brilliant futures by embracing the journey of every student-athlete.
Each year, 4,500 student-athletes compete in conference championships, making the NE10 the largest DII conference in the country in terms of sport sponsorship. Leading the way in the classroom, on the field and within the community, the NE10 is proud of its comprehensive program and the experience it provides student-athletes.