For the first time in the program's illustrious history, the RIT (19-2) men's lacrosse team will play for the NCAA Division III Men's Lacrosse national title thanks to Allister Warren (Toronto, Ontario/Malvern Collegiate Institute)'s overtime goal with 1:55 left, giving the Tigers a 10-9 win over top seeded and previously undefeated SUNY Cortland (19-1) in the semifinals on Sunday. RIT will face Stevenson University (20-2) in the championship game at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 26, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa.
"I'm so excited and proud of the guys," said an elated Head Coach Jake Coon. "It was a typical RIT/Cortland game that came down to the end. We stuck with our game plan and were able to come up with the plays down the stretch. This is a great day for our team, alumni, students and administration."
Warren scored off the hidden ball trick with the assist going to Taylor Wisman (Seattle, WA/Inglemoor) with 1:55 to play in overtime. Warren and Wisman crossed at the top of the box. Warren appeared to flip the ball to Wisman, but kept it himself. Cortland goalie Mike Kaminski followed Wisman, allowing Warren to fire a shot into the open net, sending the Tigers onto the championship game.
"We had a pick play called in the huddle," said Warren. "Coach WIlkens and Coach Dutton said if that didn't work go with the hidden ball trick. I saw the goalie follow Taylor so I fired it into the open net."
RIT ties a single-season school record with 19 wins, also set in 2011. The Tigers enter the national championship game having won 13 straight games and are 68-12 since the start of the 2010 season.
Eddie Kiesa (Syracuse, NY/Jamesville-Dewitt), Jack Krzyston (Bedford, NH/Bishop Guertin) and Kyle Aquin (Hamilton, Ontario/St. Jean De Brebeuf) each had two goals for the Tigers, while Wisman finished with three assists. Pat Johnston (Norwell, MA/Norwell) picked up his 19th win of the season, making 10 saves, including three late in the fourth quarter after Cortland made a run to tie the game.
"We kept our composure and buckled down when it got tight," said Johnston. "Our defense did a great job of giving me good looks at the shots down the stretch and I made the saves I was supposed to."
Shots were 50-34 in favor of Cortland, while RIT won the ground ball battle 39-26. Tyler Brooks-Lambert (Seneca Castle, NY/Midlakes) dominated at the face-off "X" for RIT, winning 15-of-21 draws, grabbing eight ground balls and scoring a goal. RIT's man-down unit held Cortland scoreless on four attempts.
Elliott Cowburn (Oakville, ON/Holy Trinity) led RIT's defense with two caused turnovers and five ground balls. Senior long-stick midfielder Luke Wolfe (Buffalo, NY/Williamsville North) also caused two turnovers and had two ground balls, while freshman Matt Hossack (Port Perry, Ontario/Port Perry) caused three turnovers and had a ground ball.
"Our defense was fantastic," said Coon. "They played a steady, clean game. Our man-down defense was excellent, keeping a team like Cortland scoreless in four tries is impressive."
Joe Slavik led Cortland with three goals, while Zach Hopps tallied for the Red Dragons who finish their season with a 19-1 record. Mike Kaminski took the loss in net, making 10 saves.
RIT jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on goals by Krzyston and Aquin to start the game. Billy Davis answered for Cortland with a goal at the 6:56 mark of the first quarter, cutting RIT's lead to 2-1.
The Tigers scored the only three goals of the second quarter, taking a 5-1 lead at the half. Freshman Braden Wallace (Oakville, Ontario/Abbey Park) opened the scoring in the second on his 15th goal of the season, making the score 3-1 RIT. Brooks-Lambert won the ensuing face-off and scored off a rebound, his first of the season, giving RIT a 4-1 lead. Wisman ran the clock and made a perfect feed to Krzyston in front, who made it 5-1 RIT with 51st goal of the season and second of the first half with just eight seconds left, giving RIT a four-goal halftime lead.
Aquin opened the second-half scoring with his 58th tally of the season off an assist from Kiesa at 13:16 of the third quarter, increasing RIT's lead to 6-1. Slavik answered with a bullet from the outside for Cortland with 10:32 to play in the third qaurter, cutting RIT's lead to 6-2.
Right off the ensuing face-off, Hossack took a feed from Mac Keehfus (Jamesville, NY/Jamesville-Dewitt) and rifled a shot into the top corner with his long stick, giving RIT a 7-2 lead.
The Red Dragons would not go away quietly, closing out the third quarter with three straight goals, cutting RIT's lead to 7-5 on a goal by James Stavrakis with 1:23 to play in the quarter. Slavik and Hopps also had goals for Cortland in that stretch.
Kiesa opened the fourth quarter with his first goal of the game and 40th of the season off an assist from Johnston who cleared the ball himself, circled around the net and found Kiesa for the shot from the slot. That gave RIT an 8-5 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Cortland rattled off three striaght goals midway through the fourth quarter, tying the score at 8-8 on Slavik's third of the game with 7:28 to play in regulation.
RIT weathered the Cortland storm, and got a big goal from Kiesa with 4:09 to play giving the Tigers a 9-8 lead. That lead didn't last long as Hopps scored with 2:33 to play off an assist from Cody Consul, tying the score at 9-9.
Cortland had a chance late in regulation when RIT was called for offsides, giving Cortland a man-up chance with 17.1 seconds to play in regulation. The Tigers man-down unit stayed strong and kept Cortland off the scoreboard sending the game into overtime.
Cortland won the opening face-off in the overtime and had a shot, but RIT's defense game up with the blocked shot. The Tigers were able to get the back up off the shot, clear the ball, and call timeout setting up the game-winning play for Warren and Wisman.
The win over Cortland is RIT's first win in six national semifinal games, and gives the Tigers a 14-14 record all-time in NCAA Tournament play.
RIT is now 14-19 all-time against Cortland. The last four meetings between the two schools have all been decided by a goal, with two of the four concluded in overtime. Both teams have won twice during that span. The Tigers exacted revenge on the Red Dragons, who defeated RIT 12-11 in overtime on March 27.
RIT has beaten the fifth (Cabrini), sixth (Tufts) and top ranked (Cortland) teams in this year's tournament to reach the championship game, in this, RIT's 15th appearance in the big dance. Stevenson is the No. 4 team in Division III. The Tigers lost their season opener to Stevenson in overtime back on Febraury 27 in Stevenson, Maryland by a score of 12-11. Stevenson defeated Salisbury, 12-6 in the second NCAA semifinal on Sunday.
Game time at Lincoln Financial Field is 4 p.m.