D-II Men's Rewind: Recapping the Opening Rounds of the NCAA Tournament

COURTESY OF LENOIR-RHYNE ATHLETICS

Lenoir-Rhyne and Tampa traded blows in an epic overtime thriller (which the Bears won).


We’ve reached the final four in Division II men’s lacrosse, and we experienced a few thrillers on the way there.

Lenoir-Rhyne and Tampa traded blows in an epic overtime thriller (which the Bears won), and Wingate got past a surging Indianapolis in another last-second battle. In the North, Le Moyne got past Saint Anselm for the second straight game, while Mercyhurst advanced after Mercy withdrew due to positive COVID-19 tests.

If the quarterfinals are any indication, we’re in for more chaos in the semifinals and in the championship game in Hartford, Conn.

BEST GAME
Lenoir-Rhyne vs. Tampa

How about the game of the year? Top-seeded Lenoir Rhyne and Tampa put together one of the most thrilling NCAA tournament matchups in recent history.

The Spartans, No. 1 in the Nike/US Lacrosse Division II rankings entered the matchup as the fifth seed, fresh off a 24-8 blitzing of Mount Olive in the first round. The SAC champions Bears knew they’d be in for a battle, and Tampa provided plenty of pressure.

Lenoir-Rhyne was on its heels quickly, as Tampa stormed out to a 7-1 lead and looked to be headed for another commanding NCAA tournament victory. Daniel Fitzpatick had three goals in a back-and-forth first half that saw the Spartans lead 10-5.

Then, chaos ensued. Lenoir-Rhyne dropped eight third-quarter goals, including a five-goal run fueled by a Kyle Hatcher. The Bears took brief leads at the end of the third quarter and with 11:53 left in the fourth, but Ben French’s goal with 5:33 remaining sent the quarterfinal matchup to overtime.

With four seconds left in the period, freshman Colten McCracken became a hero. He beat two defensemen, spun toward another, and fired home a leaping game-winner to send Lenoir Rhyne to the NCAA semifinals.

NOTABLE NEAR-MISS
Wingate vs. Indy

Wingate almost blew a five-goal lead to third-seeded Indy in another NCAA quarterfinal thriller.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 5-1 lead thanks to an early hat trick from Danny Riley, and stayed in command throughout the first half and into the third quarter. Bobby Padden scored with 12:55 left in the third quarter to give Wingate an 8-3 lead — its biggest lead of the game.

Indianapolis followed with four goals in a six-minute span at the end of the third, and tied the score with 14:03 left in regulation on an Andrew Simonich goal. Wingate regained the lead on a Gary Pierpont goal less than three minutes later.

With its season hanging in the balance, Drew Billig scored with 1:40 left to tie the score once again. Wingate needed one more rally, and with eight seconds left, the Bullodgs forced a Greyhounds turnover and Bobby Padden sent a pass to Danny Riley, who fired home the game-winner.







BIGGEST SURPRISE/SURPRISE THAT WASN’T
Mercy Bowing Out Due to COVID-19

What was supposed to be a blockbuster rematch between second-seeded Mercy and third-seeded Mercyhurst was declared a no-contest after positive tests within the Mercy program.

The news was disappointing for a number of reasons — it robbed fans of the chance to see two of the top teams in the country battling it out for a spot in the NCAA semifinals, but it also signaled the end to another successful Mavericks campaign at 9-1.

Instead, the Lakers will advance to the Division II final four to face the top seed in the North, Le Moyne.

BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE
Matt Hutchings, Le Moyne

Hutchings has been the quarterback of the Le Moyne offense all season, and he was at his best against Saint Anselm in the NCAA quarters. He scored three timed and added four assists for the Dolphins, account for seven of their 11 goals in the victory.

Hutchings tallied five points in the first half, allowing Le Moyne to hold a commanding 8-4 lead. From there, the Dolphins’ defense held strong and closed out another quarterfinal win.

NUMBERS OF NOTE

6

Freshman Colten McCracken scored six times in 13 games leading up to Lenoir-Rhyne’s NCAA quarterfinal against Tampa. With seconds left in the first overtime period, he looked like he had all the confidence of a leading scorer, powering home the game-winner.

20.23

Mercyhurst tops the Division II leaderboard in scoring offense, tallying over 20 goals per game. Lenoir-Rhyne (18.60) and Wingate (17.50) also sit in the top 5 nationally. Caleb Kueber leads the nation in goals per game at 4.23.

8

Le Moyne has owned its matchup with Mercyhurst in eight past meetings, most recently a 9-5 win over the Lakers in 2015. The Dolphins downed top-ranked Mercyhurst 11-10 in the Division II national championship in 2013.

292

Eric Dickinson set Lenoir-Rhyne’s all-time scoring record, previously held by former teammate Joe Buduo, during a COVID-19 shortened 2020 season. He returned to campus for a fifth year knowing he’d continue to set the mark, and he’s extended his record to 292 career points — 81 more than anyone else.

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