Motivated Seton Hill men's lacrosse team chasing history
Before the start of every game, the Seton Hill University men's lacrosse team huddles in prayer.
Its members are not petitioning for a victory — even though the Griffins are on a roll, having won 11 consecutive games and ranking No. 6 in NCAA Division II heading into Saturday's scheduled regular-season finale against Mercyhurst to determine the championship of the ECAC Division II Lacrosse League.
Instead, they are dedicating this special season to the school's women's lacrosse program, whose schedule was cut short after the bus crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in March that claimed the lives of coach Kristin Quigley, her unborn son and the driver of the bus, Anthony M. Guaetta of Johnstown.
“To have the women's program end so abruptly, it's something that's really settled in,” Seton Hill men's coach Brian Novotny said. “I really do think our guys have embraced it. It's strengthened our resolve, and it's something that's ever present to dedicate ourselves to that cause.”
On Saturday, Seton Hill (12-1, 6-0) will play what is likely to be the most important game for a men's program still in its infancy. Top-ranked Mercyhurst (12-0, 6-0), which has never lost to Seton Hill in eight games since the series began in 2006, won a national championship in 2011.
Not only would the winner claim the league championship and earn home-field advantage for the ECAC Tournament, but it could give a leg up on a possible run at a national title.
“It's down to the point now, we're sitting at 12-1; the team is a little disappointed we aren't 13-0,” Novotny said, pointing to a 12-11 loss to No. 8 New York Tech in the second game of the year during a cold, windy March day. “We probably have opened some eyes on a national and regional scale. Some people have said we're a team to watch, up and coming. I'm not sure we have arrived because we haven't really done anything yet.”
Now's its chance.
There are guys at Seton Hill with better statistics, but none more passionate than junior Dylan Lefebvre, the Griffins' third-leading scorer and, according to Novotny, a player who is “pushing the agenda from an attitude standpoint.”
Lefebvre, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound attackman from Regina, Saskatchewan, comes from a region of Canada so familiar with the sport of lacrosse that it's treated with similar respect to the country's beloved hockey.
“For me, growing up in Canada, it was like second nature to hockey,” said Lefebvre. “There was a lot of information in the media. Here in Greensburg, where there's not a lot of publicity, it's kind of nice at times. You stay off the radar. When and if you do pop up, you hope you get noticed enough that some day this team can leave its legacy for the ones to come.”
It is that type of player-speak that fuels Novotny's coaching fire. Of his team in general and Lefebvre specifically, he said: “we have really strong senior leadership — across the board. Make no mistake, we've got guys who will get a look (from professional teams). But Dylan Lefebvre has been a tremendous addition to our team. There's nobody better from a motivational standpoint.”
Said Lefebvre: “We're holding our heads high, and we don't accept a poor effort around here.”
Junior All-American Matt Delmonico and senior Taylor Mansfield are Seton Hill's leading scorers with 55 points apiece. Lefebvre's team-leading 35 goals are one more than Delmonico's total.
Mercyhurst's top scorer is senior Brian Scheetz, with 48 points. Junior Brady Heseltine 26 goals tops that category for the Lakers.
On Saturday, Lefebvre hopes there is a continuation of lacrosse excellence at Seton Hill. For the future, he holds the same belief because the blueprint for recruiting players who fit the program is in place now, he said.
It doesn't hurt, either, when your friends have your back.
“The support we've gotten from the women's team definitely has allowed us to want to play harder and be motivated to play for them,” Lefebvre said. “Our team definitely has risen to the occasion and has wanted to do something that would help to take their minds off what happened this year. Our teams are very close. It definitely hit us hard, as well. We've been saying that prayer before each game and it's been carrying over to the end.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.