Quinnipiac men’s lacrosse MAAC Champions, draw first NCAA Tournament bid

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Quinnipiac men’s lacrosse MAAC Champions, draw first NCAA Tournament bid

Morey Hershgordon

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By: Sierra Goodwill

A commanding start to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title game for the Quinnipiac men’s lacrosse team proved to be enough to make history. It is the MAAC Champions for the first time in program history after conquering the Marist Red Foxes 13-9 Saturday afternoon in Hamden.

“It’s just such an accomplishment for the guys. This has been one of the best teams I’ve ever coached,” head coach Eric Fekete said, drenched in celebratory Gatorade after the win. “We’ve had this as our goal since last year when we fell short. Everything we’ve asked them to do, they’ve done without any complaints.”

Heading into halftime, Quinnipiac clung to an 8-6 advantage after Marist clawed its way back. But, 16 seconds into the third quarter, the Bobcats gave themselves breathing room, extending their lead to four.

Ryan Keenan and Drew D’Antonio netted goals six seconds apart to give the Bobcat’s back the cushion they created earlier in the game.

“We are a pretty good second half team,” Fekete said, who’s team has outscored its conference opponents by 30 after intermission. “I didn’t expect to score so quickly coming out of the half, but I felt very good with where we were at.”

Keenan exploded out of the gates, scoring just 25 seconds in, to give Quinnipiac the lead. Up 6-1 late in the first quarter, the Red Foxes wouldn’t go down without a fight. Their retaliation cut the lead to just one goal halfway through the second quarter.

Fekete was forced to call a timeout.

“I just wanted to make sure they didn’t get too flustered. We were still winning and sometimes you can have a lead, and then fall behind and feel like your losing. I didn’t want them to have that mentality.”

Quinnipiac’s Will Vitelli was dominant in the faceoff circle, winning 20 of 26 throughout the game. His stellar performance was extremely beneficial for the Bobcat’s in claiming second half momentum.

Quinnipiac’s 12-8 advantage throughout the majority of the fourth quarter stalled on two shot clock violations on consecutive possessions. With eight minutes to play, Marist tried to convert. Bobcats defenseman Chris Kendall made sure that didn’t happen.

“We talk all the time here about possessions, stops and clears,” Fekete said. “That’s how the game breaks down. You have to make the stop, you have to clear it and you have to get a good possession. That’s been the recipe for us all year, and that’s what won today.”

Drew D’Antonio shined in the championship game, accumulating five points off of a career high four goals and an assist. One of the goals was the last for the Bobcats, where storming the field and raucous cheering ensued.

“It’s great for everyone here,” Fekete said. “Outside of this team, there are so many people on this campus, from facilities to administration, that do so much for this team. We talk about family a lot here. It’s our own team family and their families, but it’s also one at this campus. We really embrace this place and we’re very fortunate to be here.”

That humility comes from knowing what it feels like to be on the opposite end of success. Quinnipiac men’s lacrosse has been steadily improving its conference identity. For the upperclassmen, this championship represents a tremendous amount of growth.

Following the seniors’ unsuccessful first-year campaign, the next season provided more false hope. Quinnipiac started 3-0 in the conference, but its triumph was snapped, losing the rest and falling just short of post-season play.

This season, the seniors wanted no regrets.

“It took a lot of mental toughness,” Keenan said. “In the past it’s been us just trying to bring energy and step up to the other teams’ levels. Being the ones in front, we had to be confident, stay level-headed and stick to our game plan.”

Junior goalkeeper, Jack Brust, notched 13 saves in the title game and a total of 31 in the conference playoffs. His performances earned him tournament Most Outstanding Player.

“I don’t think the magnitude of what just happened is going to set in for awhile,” the MOP said. “I don’t know if it can get better than this. We’re making history here.”

Their seeding and opponent for the NCAA Tournament will be announced Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.

Fekete doesn’t plan on making too many adjustments for his first national showing.

“We’ve really focused this year on just worrying about us. Getting ready for the opponent but not getting too hung up on who we’re playing. I think we’ll stick with that mode. We just have to play the game the best we can.”