History for RIT: The Mind-Boggling Finish that Sealed the Tigers' First DIII Title

PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

Ryan Barnable celebrates after scoring the double-overtime to give RIT its first Division III national championship.


EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — RIT had been here before, as senior goalie Walker Hare knew all too well. It just hadn’t been there, celebrating a Division III men’s lacrosse title with a pile of teammates on the day before Memorial Day.

At least not until Sunday’s frenetic, mind-boggling finish to regulation and Ryan Barnable’s goal in double overtime clinched a 15-14 victory over Salisbury and the Tigers’ first national title.

“It means the world,” Hare said. “This is something we’ve never been able to experience before. We’re just elated to be a part of the team that did it for RIT. We talked with Lou Spiotti, our athletic director, last night and he reiterated how proud the school was of us and how they always had our backs and no matter the outcome they would be behind us. We played like that today.”

Hare made 13 saves, including on the Sea Gulls’ final five shots on goal, and senior attackman Quinn Commandant had five goals and two assists to earn most outstanding player honors for RIT (14-0), which became the first undefeated Division III champion since Salisbury in 2012.

Griffin Moroney scored five goals for the Sea Gulls (17-2), who fell short of tying Hobart’s long-standing record of 13 Division III titles.

But Salisbury can’t claim it didn’t have a chance.

The Sea Gulls led 14-13 and had possession with 20 seconds left. Pierre Armstrong was evading defenders close to the midfield line in an attempt to burn off the clock, but officials saw a Salisbury defender on the other side of the line push an RIT player to the ground. It was ruled interference, and RIT quickly got to work.

Midfielder Ryan Rosenblum ignited a break on the restart, finding Dawson Tait before taking a pass back and then slipping it to Commandant on the crease to can the tying goal with 12.1 seconds left in regulation.

“Our coaches do a phenomenal job of bringing those game-like situations into practice,” Commandant said. “That’s something we see every day, and something we like and are used to, and it worked out for us in the end.”

Tigers coach Jake Coon calls those “Final 80” situations, and RIT executed perfectly. But things were anything but final at that stage, even if a team facing slim odds had resuscitated its title hopes and at least temporarily averted a loss on the final day of the season.

“We caught a break,” Coon said. “They pushed a guy in the back and we got the ball back and were able to capitalize. Part of this whole experience and process of winning a title is a little bit of luck, and we caught a little bit of luck there. I give our guys credit, however. We capitalized on the opportunity we had. They could have missed the cage or not finished, but they did. We were prepared for any situation, and the guys believed we were never out of it. That’s half of it.”

Both teams had opportunities in the initial period of the first overtime D-III final since 2006. Salisbury goalie T.J. Ellis stuffed Barnable with 3:07 to go in overtime, and Hare repaid the favor against Jack Dowd two minutes later.

Salisbury even won the faceoff to begin the second overtime, only to almost immediately turn it back over to the Tigers.

“[Jarrett Bromwell] had a couple good looks. Cross [Ferrara] had a couple good gos at people,” Sea Gulls coach Jim Berkman said. “We had some nice opportunities in overtime. We had our chances. Our guys left it on the field today. We didn’t leave any stones unturned. They can hold their heads high. Just proud of how hard they played.”







Salisbury wouldn’t get the ball back after that opening scrum of double overtime. The Tigers poked and prodded, but found little to work with before a restart with seven left on the shot clock. Tait, RIT’s leading scorer for the year with 49 goals, fired a dart to Barnable in front of the crease, who quickly deposited it in the net before being mobbed by teammates.

“Barney handled it under pressure and finished it,” Coon said. “Ryan Barnable is a tremendous competitor. He was having trouble finding the back of the net today, so I couldn’t see a better person scoring that one.”

Overtime seemed like a possibility even as early as the first half. There were nine ties, and neither team enjoyed a lead larger than two goals.

Salisbury had the last multi-goal lead at 13-11, only for the Tigers to score twice in 41 seconds. Bromwell collected his 73rd goal of the season with 7:13 to go, a margin that looked like it would hold even as Hare heated up in the fourth quarter.

He made three stops while RIT still trailed by a goal, then handled Bromwell’s shot with six seconds remaining to ensure the game went to overtime.

“I think as a whole we moved the ball really well and we played very unselfish,” Moroney said. “Not that we didn’t at the end. We’d been spinning the ball pretty well all game and we got a couple looks at the end. Their goalie, hats off to him, he made a couple saves at the end that maybe if we’d put one or two more of those in it wouldn’t have been an overtime game.”

Instead, it was a landmark victory for the Tigers, who were making their 22nd NCAA tournament appearance. That included 11 trips in 12 seasons under Coon, who molded RIT into a perennial contender.

The Tigers were a semifinalist by his second year in 2011, and made national title game trips in both 2013 and 2017. This was RIT’s seventh trip to at least the semis in a little more than a decade, and its third time playing on the last day of the season.

Unlike those past experiences, this one ended the way the Tigers dreamed it would when the season was still in its nascent stages.

“I’m still a little bit in shock right now,” Hare said. “It’s kind of hard to believe that thinking back to the early-morning practices when we were out in the snow and the cold, thinking all of that led to this moment. It’s amazing to think about. I’m ecstatic.”

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