3 one goal games and a hard fought 9-5 decision in the first round characterized how competitive the Elite 8 games of the NCLL Division I tournament were this past weekend in Annapolis, MD. The Naval Academy played host to the 2018 tournament in the beautiful state capital of one of lacrosse’s biggest hot beds. The 8 teams descended on the Naval Academy ready for action and the action on the field did not disappoint. With the Frederick Cup on the line, the best of Division I saved their best for last.
#1 Salisbury vs. #8 Vermont
The #1 ranked and top seed of the tournament, Salisbury Sea Gulls (8-2) were paired up against the #8 seed Vermont Dirty Cats (6-3). Vermont made its way to Annapolis by virtue of an overtime win over Hofstra in the first round while Salisbury had a bye to championship weekend. The Dirty Cats were undeterred. Vermont matched top-ranked Salisbury goal for goal through the first half and the teams entered the break knotted at 4. Vermont went on to score back to back goals to end the scoring in the third and open the fourth to take a 6-5 advantage, their first lead of the day. However, the Sea Gulls then answered with 3 straight tallies to build an 8-6 lead and looked to have control of the game as they opened up the biggest lead of the game for either team. Vermont answered with a pair of goals of their own to tie the game at 8-8. Both teams added another before the buzzer sounded sending the contest to OT. In the extra frame, Rich Thorpe collected some loose change after a failed feed inside on EMO and buried a 12-yarder to send the Dirty Cats to a 10-9 OT upset over top-ranked Salisbury.
— NCLL (@NCLLax) May 5, 2018
#2 Navy vs. #7 Ohio
The Sleddawgs of Navy, playing on their home turf and earning the #2 seed to go with their #2 ranking entering the weekend, were all business in their opening game of the day. Matched up with Ohio University from Athens, OH, the Elite 8 matchup was an interesting one. The Bobcats carried a 7-0 record into the tournament including an impressive 10-5 first round playoff victory over James Madison. Navy had dispatched a strong Rutgers team a week earlier to earn their place at the table. Ohio built an early 3-2 lead over the host Sleddawgs before the best chirping section in the league lit a fire under Navy. Navy would go on to score 7 of the next 9 goals, including a pair of 3 goal runs to run away with the game, 9-5. Ohio got a pair of unassisted goals from Andrew Kaylor in the losing effort while Navy was led by Luke Ledva who chipped in 3 goals for the Sladdawgs.
#3 Maryland vs. #6 Temple
The Terps Lacrosse Club (13-4) and the Temple Owls (13-3) was another well matched Elite 8 game. The two squads could have easily swapped seeds without much argument. Both clubs racked up an impressive number of victories over quality opponents and both teams only dropped games to highly ranked teams. There were no bad losses between them. Predictably, the game played out much the way it looked on paper with the only question being who would be left standing when time ran out. In a low scoring affair, Temple “raced” out to a 2-0 lead over the Terps Lacrosse Club. Maryland responded with a pair of unassisted goals to knot the game at 2 at the half. It was back and forth in the 2nd half and both defenses continued to stymie the opposing offenses. Late in the 4th, Maryland’s Wes Reid scored their 6th and what would prove to be the game-winner to break a 5-5 tie. Temple got a few chances late, but Maryland’s defense stood tall as time ran out on the Owls’ desperation shots in the waning seconds to deliver the 6-5 final to the Terps.
#4 Virginia vs. # 5 Penn State
UVA vs. Penn State was every bit as tight as the other three elite games, however these two squads threw a series of haymakers at one another instead of simply just exchanging jabs. Virginia, who defeated the defending National Champion Towson Tigers the week prior, came out on fire. The Hoos sprinted out to an 8-1 lead before Penn State knew what hit them. By halftime, the score was 9-2 and the Virginia faithful were already counting their chickens. To their credit though, Penn State (8-3), winners of 5 straight, were not packing it in. The Nittany Lions Club came out of halftime firing. Penn State outscored Virginia 4-1 in the 3rd quarter to close the margin to 4. They followed up that act in the fourth by going on a dramatic 6-2 run that tied the game at 12-12. Virginia added the dagger late in the 4th to squash the hopes of the Penn State faithful and steal victory from the jaws of a hungry Nittany Lion team to advance to the Final 4 by the slimmest of margins, 13-12
#4 Virginia vs. # 8 Vermont
Vermont, fresh off their upset of #1 seed and ranked Salisbury ran into a buzz saw in their second game of the day. The Final 4 match up of the Dirty Cats vs. Virginia turned into a first half rout as the Hoos ran off 8 consecutive goals, including 3 straight by Nick Bierman, before Vermont knew what hit them. The Dirty Cats did manage to regroup before halftime and bag two before the midway point. Halftime, Virginia 8 – Vermont 2. The Dirty Cats would regroup and came out of halftime inspired and clawing for their playoff lives, but had they used all 9 of them up already? It didn’t look like that the way Vermont came out of the gate in the 3rd quarter. The Cats scored 3 straight to narrow the margin to 8-5 before Virginia collected themselves offensively and answered with a 3 goal run of their own to end the 3rd and start the 4th quarter. Vermont would score consecutive goals in the 4th to bring the score to 11-7, but the Cavs put them away with 2 goals to close the 4th and the game and reserve their spot at the DI Championship table. The 13-7 final wasn’t indicative of how competitive the game was in the latter stages, but Virginia put together a solid four quarters and Vermont’s slow start doomed them from the get go.
#2 Navy vs. #3 Maryland
Much like the other DI Final 4 game between UVA and Vermont, one team came out ready to play and the other, uncharacteristically, looked sluggish. In this half of the bracket, it was the Terps who got off at well, a Terrapins pace against the host school, Navy. The Sleddawgs of Navy used a patient offense a relentless riding game to keep the Terps Lacrosse Club in check as they methodically built a 5 goal advantage into the 3rd quarter. Maryland struggled between the restraining lines and Navy did a great job of limiting the looks that the Terps got to low angle shots in settled offense. Perhaps with the game getting away, the Terps felt the pressure of the scoreboard and the gaggle of Middies behind their bench breathing down their necks and the result was hurried shots early in possessions and not a lot of cohesive play on the offensive end of the field. Maryland’s defense did a great job of limiting the damage despite the disparity in the time of possession. Maryland got their first tally in the third quarter, but Navy was quick to answer to keep the lead at five entering the fourth quarter. The Terps did manage to put a scare into the home crowd as they came alive in the fourth to close the gap to 7-5 on the strength of 3 goals by Zack Bloom. However, Navy’s Cortland Heneveld scored an unassisted goal, his second of the day, to extend the lead to 3 and that was all Navy needed to advance to the final game on Sunday. Final score, Navy 8 – Maryland 5.
Images of Elite 8 action can be found in our online gallery.