Seton Hill men's lacrosse advances to NCAA Division II Final Four
Seton Hill senior defenseman Joe Cillo picked a great time to score his first collegiate lacrosse goal.
And Seton Hill celebrated its first NCAA Division II playoff victory, defeating No. 1 Le Moyne, 14-10, on Saturday at home. It was the Griffins' 16th consecutive win.
It was a battle between the top offensive team in the country — No. 3 Seton Hill averages 17 goals per game — and the top defensive team in the country — Le Moyne allows 7.2 goals.
Le Moyne (15-2) rallied to tie the game at 7-7 with four consecutive goals with the man advantage and seized momentum.
But Cillo stopped that run, giving Seton Hill the lead for good late in the second quarter.
The Griffins (17-1) advanced to the final four and will play at Merrimack (Mass.), which defeated NYIT, 24-6, on May 20.
This is Seton Hill's second NCAA Tournament appearance. The first was in 2013, and ended with a loss to Limestone (S.C.).
“We've played good teams before,” Seton Hill coach Brian Novotny said. “We've been a top 10 program now for a decade. It is huge for the university to send a team to the final four.”
Seton Hill led 5-2 after the first quarter behind four consecutive goals and was leading 7-3 when it was penalized for two minutes because of a cross-check to the head. Like a five-minute major in the NHL, a team can score as many goals as possible during the penalty.
Le Moyne got a fourth goal with the man advantage to tie the game, but that's when Cillo's goal changed momentum and led to goals by Jack Moran and John Hofseth over the next two minutes to push the Seton Hill lead to 10-7 at halftime.
Cillo broke free down the middle and rifled a shot by goalkeeper Jack Sweeney.
“We knew we weren't in too much trouble after losing the lead,” Moran said. “We came out with everything we had at the beginning of the game. Then when we started to get punched in the mouth, we realized the game was still going on.
“We came out a little soft in the second period. We had a couple great goals in transition after their run. Staying persistent, knowing we could do what we wanted if we tried as hard as we can.”
In the third quarter, which was a defensive struggle, Seton Hill broke through with late goals by Sean Stanners and John Miller to up the lead to 12-7.
After Le Moyne scored two goals early in the final quarter to trim the lead to 12-9, Jay Scerbo put an end to the comeback by winning a faceoff, racing down the field and whipping a shot past Sweeney.
“I think it was a huge turning point of the game,” Scerbo said. “It changed the mood of everybody. It set a tone that we weren't done.”
Moran tallied his third goal of the game with 3 minutes, 43 seconds left to seal the victory.
“I was happy with our performance,” Novotny said. “I thought we came out really well. I liked the way our offense played early on, and I thought the defense played really well except that little stretch in the second quarter with the two-minute penalty.
“We went into halftime very confident and very calm. Anytime you have the lead at halftime, you feel very good. The play Scerbo made in the fourth period, he's been a warrior all year, and he's one of the best in the country facing off. He impacts the game.”
Moran added: “Jay is the biggest part of our team. He keeps getting us the ball by being able to win faceoffs. It's hard for other teams to go on runs.”
Now the Griffins are headed to unchartered territory.