Halftime Against Tampa Changed Trajectory of Lenoir-Rhyne's Postseason Run


Myles Moffat has a team-leading 80 points this season.

It’s been a whirlwind of a Division II men’s lacrosse season. Every week, contenders were made to look like pretenders, and would-be pretenders announced themselves as major players in the landscape.

Through all the turmoil and shuffling in the rankings, Lenoir-Rhyne has been steadily stringing together wins and quietly remaining a top five team. Stacking those regular season wins turned into a run through a loaded NCAA bracket, knocking off Tampa, Rollins and rival Limestone — all higher seeds — on its way to a spot in the national championship game.

The Bears are the first No. 5 seed to make it this far in the Division II men’s tournament. But no one in their locker room is surprised.

“The first meeting of the year, I said there have been two times I thought we had enough talent to play for a championship. One was 2021, the other was this year,” head coach Greg Paradine said.

Lenoir-Rhyne battled but ultimately came up short against an undefeated Le Moyne team in the 2021 title game. Most that core is still on the roster.

“In 2021, there were a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” Paradine said. “Now those are fourth- and fifth-year guys, so we’ve had a tremendous amount of experience. These guys have got everything it takes to play for the national championship.”

One of those players is attackman Myles Moffat, the team’s scoring leader with 80 points. The Alberta native had confidence early in the year, and Memorial Day Weekend was the target.

“This is where we expected to be,” Moffat said. “Coach told us we have a lot of potential. At the start, we were trying to figure out who we are, how we wanted the season to go. But our goal every year is to make it to the national championship.”

It’s been a long journey for Moffat and the upperclassmen. But the experience is paying dividends and is a major part of their success. It all began, curiously enough, with the COVID year. The schedule was short, but the competition was fierce for a few brief weeks. Lenoir-Rhyne had wins over Adelphi and Limestone on the resume before its season was canceled.

“Starting with the 2020 season, these guys played in six or seven games. But they were really big games,” Paradine said. “These guys were freshmen, so that was like a redshirt year for them. Next year, they follow it up with the [national runner-up finish]. We just have a lot of guys that have been in big games, games that really mattered.”

One new addition is Riley Seay. Coming over via the transfer portal, Seay was an offensive leader at Loyola before joining the Bears. Adding a player of his caliber to an already well-built roster could have caused chemistry issues, but the fit has been seamless.

“All the credit goes to Riley. He was captain at Loyola. He never tried to big time anyone,” Paradine said. “He fit right in. It was amazing, the person that he is, that acclimated. He never thought he was better than anyone. His attitude and his work ethic have been a tremendous addition.”

After a 13-2 regular season followed by a loss to Limestone in the South Atlantic Conference championship game, Lenoir-Rhyne awaited its fate on Selection Sunday. The Bears earned the No. 5 seed in the tournament, and a potentially brutal run of games through the postseason loomed. A round one game with Tampa, a potential round two matchup with Rollins and then a likely semifinal meeting with Limestone. The road to Philadelphia looked difficult, but Moffat was never shaken.

“We were confident from the selection show,” he said. “From the moment when we were the 5 seed, we said, ‘Alright, we have to go to Florida and take care of business.’”

The Bears struggled in the first half against Tampa. They gave up a 5-0 second quarter and trailed 7-4 at the half. Halftime changed their approach and started a postseason tournament run.

“We played less recklessly offensively,” Paradine said. “That started in the second half of that Tampa game. We have some talented kids, and we wanted to let them play offense. Our defense has been solid all year; we felt like if we can give them a break a bit and make some other teams play more defense, we’ll be in good shape.”

Lenoir-Rhyne began to better share the ball, stringing together long possessions and using depth to grind opponents down.

“The Tampa game was one of the hottest games I’ve ever been in as a coach,” Paradine said. “We had to follow that up a couple days later. So, it was really important offensively, defensively, to wear down the other team and not wear ourselves down.”

The Bears dominated Rollins in the second round, setting up a third meeting with Limestone. Lenoir-Rhyne won the regular season meeting, while Limestone won in the SAC championship game. In a third meeting, there wouldn’t be any surprises.

“At that point, it’s hard to change who you are,” Moffat said. “We had to go play our best game on all fronts. We brought execution. It was about who can execute best at this time of year, and that’s our focus.”

Paradine wanted his team to focus on prolonged possessions. In the SAC title game, many possessions ended after one dodge or one shot.

The formula delivered an 18-11 win, a five-point day from Moffat and a trip to Philadelphia.

Now, with a national title in sight, the focus remains the same. Rely on solid defense led by Victor Powell, a hot goalie in Rob Pensabene and smart offense. The Bears still look to run and have the weapons and depth to win a track meet, but they are still looking to be efficient.

“We told the guys, we are expecting to win the game,” Paradine said. “There should be nobody on our team that doesn’t anticipate us winning.

“For half our roster, they played in the national championship in 2021, and there is never a guarantee you will go back. They know how special it is. They are ready to be on that stage again.”

The Bears will have to take down Mercyhurst to claim the crown. Mercyhurst handed Le Moyne its first and only loss in the semifinals, assuredly providing plenty of confidence. But the Bears are where they expected to be, and they’ve felt that way all year.

From the preseason, to Selection Sunday, to the last Sunday in May.

“All the hard work and preparation, this is why we do it,” Moffat said. “From the fall through the spring, it all goes into this weekend.”


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