NCAA Preview: Men’s Lacrosse looks to continue historic run - St. John Fisher University Athletics (2024)

Men's Lacrosse | 5/18/2024 7:34:00 AM

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – After a historic weekend that saw them upset two of the highest-ranked programs in the nation, the St. John Fisher University men's lacrosse team is in the "Elite 8" quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III Men's Lacrosse Championship tournament for the first time in program history. Now, the Cardinals head to Salisbury, Md., looking to continue their Cinderella run.

The quarterfinals with No. 6 ranked Tufts are Saturday, May 18, at 7:30 P.M. Should the Cardinals prevail, they'd face the winner between Washington & Lee and host Salisbury on Sunday, also at 7:30 P.M.

Here's what you need to know:

Last Times Out
Before last weekend, St. John Fisher's men's lacrosse team had never made it past the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. The Cardinals were also winless against teams ranked in the top five nationally. Both of those statements are no longer true.

First, on Saturday, the Cardinals played host Wesleyan University, the No. 5 team in the country. Although Fisher fell behind by four early, they stormed back to take an 11-7 lead into halftime. While Wesleyan's squad staged a comeback in the second half, Fisher held firm to take the 15-13 win and punch their ticket to the Round of 16. Senior Jordan Leuze led the team with five goals and an assist, while fellow senior Matthew Kemmis had three goals and three assists.

Up next were the St. Lawrence Saints, ranked No. 4 or No. 8 depending on the poll, who had defeated Fisher earlier in the year. The Cardinals led wire-to-wire this time, starting the game on a 3-0 run. It wasn't easy, though, as St. Lawrence cut the lead to just one on several occasions in the second half before the Cardinals saw off a final attack in the closing seconds to secure the win. Senior Timmy Salit had three goals and an assist, while Ben Hammond made 15 saves in the 11-10 victory.

Know Your Foe
The Tufts Jumbos enter the quarterfinals 15-3 this season with a No. 6 national rank. Receiving an at-large bid after getting upset in the quarterfinals of their conference tournament, Tufts easily won their first two games of the tournament, beating Illinois Wesleyan 27-9 and then Stevenson University 27-7.

Tufts's high-powered offense is second in the country with 19.29 goals per game. It is led by sophom*ore Jack Regnery, who is 10th in the nation with 3.78 goals per game. Defensively, Conner Garzone has started all 18 games this year in net and has averaged 10.94 goals allowed per game.

Fisher is 0-2 all-time against the Jumbos, falling to them in the NCAA Tournament in 2021 and 2022.

Fun fact: Tufts is named the Jumbos in honor of the famous circus elephant, Jumbo, because P.T. Barnum was an early benefactor of the school.

Other Possible Foes
A win against Tufts would put the Cardinals against either the No. 1 seeded host Salisbury or No. 13 or 16-rated Washington and Lee. Those teams play at 4:30 P.M. on Saturday.

The Salisbury Sea Gulls are a national lacrosse power who have won 13 championships, including last season's title. They lead the nation with an offense that averages 19.29 goals per game, and their defense is nearly as good, sitting tied for fourth by allowing just 7.33 goals. In earlier rounds, the 21-0 Gulls beat St. Joseph (CT) 27-8 and Swarthmore 18-7. Four players have recorded 70 or more points, including graduate student Jude Brown, who leads the team with 120 (40 goals, 80 assists). Any meeting with Salisbury would be the first in program history. Fun fact: Washington Commanders head coach Dan Quinn is a Salisbury graduate.

Washington and Lee is 15-5 and made the tournament as an at-large after falling to Randolph-Macon in the ODAC conference semifinals. They opened the NCAAs with a 17-4 win over Lake Forest before edging host Lynchburg 16-13 in the Round of 16. They are led offensively by Alex Brown, with 70 goals, and James Haley, with 75 points (41 goals, 34 assists). In net, their primary goalie has been Nick De Cain, who is 12-4 with a 9.71 Goals Against Average this season. Fisher has never played Washington and Lee. Fun fact: Washington and Lee was founded in 1749 as the Augusta Academy, making it one of the oldest schools in the country.

Kemmis and Cornell
The Empire 8 names two Players of the Year each season, one on offense and one on defense. This season, both were Cardinals.

The Offensive Player of the Year was senior Matthew Kemmis, who won after a regular season where he was fourth in the conference in points per game (4.00) and goals per game (2.67) as well as ninth in assists per game (1.33). Against conference opponents, he was even better, finishing atop the Empire 8 with 4.83 points per conference game, around two-thirds of a point better than anyone else. So far in the NCAAs, the Jamesville-Dewitt graduate had five goals and five assists.

The Defensive Player of the Year was junior Jack Cornell. This season, he finished second in the conference in caused turnovers per game, with 2.39, and finished in the top 10 of groundballs per game, with 3.17. Cornell and his teammates allowed only 168 goals this season, tied for lowest in the conference. Against conference opponents, the Cardinals only allowed 38 goals- the lowest in the conference. The Levittown native has won seven ground balls and caused four turnovers in the NCAA Tournament thus far.

Highlights for Hammond
Senior goalkeeper Ben Hammond has stepped up in the NCAA tournament against some of the best teams in the country, particularly in Sunday's win over St. Lawrence. The Saints peppered him with 49 shots during the Round of 16 game, the most he's faced all season, but he allowed just 10 goals while making 15 saves. Those 15 saves were the second-most on the year for the Manlius native, behind a 16-save performance against No. 2 RIT in March.

Maryland, Their Maryland
Maryland is known as one of the lacrosse hot-beds of the country, and the Cardinals have three Marylanders on their Roster who are returning to their home state for the quarterfinals: junior Brady Mason, sophom*ore Bryce Riffel, and freshman Justin Tundo. Of the three, Mason is a regular in the Cardinals' success: he's tied for second on the team in goals (31) and is third in points (55). The native of Silver Spring has two goals and six assists in the NCAA tournament so far.

In addition, Salisbury is familiar ground for head coach Dave Dobbins: He was an assistant coach for the Sea Gulls between 2003 and 2009, including for four national championship-winning squads.

Local Flavor
Fisher is one of two Rochester-area schools in this year's Elite Eight (the other, RIT, is on the other side of the bracket) and fittingly has several key players from the area on the squad. Among them are Spencerport's Connor Mesh, Canandaigua's Joe Urlacher, and Geneva's Dugan Doeblin. Mesh won Empire 8 All-Conference First Team honors this season, while Urlacher earned Second Team honors, and Doeblin earned a place on the Third Team.

What Comes Next
Should the Cardinals continue their Cinderella ways and win two games this weekend, they'd find themselves in the NCAA Division III Men's Lacrosse Championship Game for the first time in the program's history. If they do that, they'll be playing in the land of legendary underdog Rocky Balboa himself: Philadelphia.

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NCAA Preview: Men’s Lacrosse looks to continue historic run - St. John Fisher University Athletics (2024)
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