The UMLC playoffs were an opportunity for #1 ranked St. Thomas to punch their ticket to Greenville, SC for the MCLA National Tournament. Interestingly enough UST entered the weekend as the second seed in the conference, behind St. John’s after a grueling 7-6 loss in the regular season, but as the first ranked team in the country.
To start the weekend the Tommies had to take on a North Dakota State team who was hungry to avenge their regular season loss. The Tommies and Bison met the previous week at Palmer Field, in which UST came out on top 12-5 after a slow start and not the cleanest game that the team has played.
Saturday would prove different for the Tommies as they came out firing within the first 11 seconds when David Chlipala struck first to get the team rolling. The Tommies controlled the entire game, leading 8-1 at half and finishing out the game with a final score of 15-3 over NDSU. Eleven Tommies recorded at least one point in the victory with Pete Carbonneau leading the team with 4 assists with midfielders John Michael Coon and Giuseppe Palermo both recording hat tricks, Palermo adding 1 assist to boost the team into the finals. Goalies Steven Bang (7 saves) and Ryan Zeilinger (5 saves) split the game for the Tommies and solidified a tremendous defensive effort holding the young, explosive Bison offense to only 3 goals. With the win UST secured themselves a second chance to face their great rivals from Collegeville in the conference finals!
In what seems like a common occurrence in Division II, the Tommies and Johnnies faced off for the automatic bid to Nationals in front of a great crowd of supporters and youth players from the Twin Cities. These two teams have seen each other in this game every year since 2005, when the league first split into the 2 divisions, and it is always a nail biter for everyone involved.
The Tommies jumped out to an early 4-1 lead after the first quarter, and seemed to have control of the half. But anytime you count out SJU they prove you wrong, and this game was no different. The Johnnies answered right back in the 2nd quarter with their own onslaught of goals. Matt Draxler (2g, 1a) and Alex Fulton (2g) led the charge for the #4 ranked Johnnies as they evened the score at 5-5 going into the second half. The third quarter was a low scoring affair with each defense holding their own led by stellar goalkeeping on both ends. Ryan Zeilinger for the Tommies and Michael King for SJU were making key saves, and commanded their defenses to leave the score 7-6 in favor of the Johnnies entering the pivotal final quarter.
Towards the end of the fourth quarter the Tommies were desperately looking for a spark on offense to tie up the game. Surprisingly enough, it was not the talented core of upper classman attack who put the team on their backs, but instead from sophomore midfielder Will Hersman. Hersman scored two momentum shifting goals for the Tommies propelling them into the lead 8-7. Both teams traded a few more goals until time ran out and the scoreboard showed UST the victors with a final score of 10-8. This was a tremendous effort all around by St. Thomas while they battled the ups and downs of a lacrosse game, but eventually they came together, got through the adversity and accomplished their goal of winning the UMLC Division II title.
With the title in hand, the Tommies now look ahead to a whole new season where every team starts with a clean slate, the MCLA National Tournament. This year it is being held in Greenville, SC and the team is awaiting the final poll to reveal seeding for the tournament in which they will likely be the #1 seed going into the sixteen team bracket. The team hopes to stay on top through a tough week of games out east and bring home the hardware that was theirs in 2009 and 2010 but escaped them last year with a tough loss to Davenport.
Stay tuned for the official bracket of the tournament which is expected to come out next week as conference playoffs wrap up around the country and the seeding starts to shake out. The team would like to thank the parents, alumni, and fans for their support throughout the regular season and looks forward to a great showing of support out in Greenville as they pursue the programs third national title in four years. Go Tommies!