Tartan men’s lacrosse team sees first CCLA postseason
Last weekend, Carnegie Mellon’s men’s lacrosse team made its first appearance in the Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association (CCLA) regional playoffs, which took place in East Grand Rapids, Mich. Out of the 10 teams in Carnegie Mellon’s division, four made it into the postseason.
In the regular season, Carnegie Mellon went 4–1 in division play — good enough to secure them a spot in the playoffs, along with the University of Dayton (5–0), Ferris State University (4–1), and Calvin College (3–2).
On Friday night, Carnegie Mellon faced Ferris State University (Mich.) in the semifinals. With high expectations, the Tartans failed to overcome the pressure and fell to the Bulldogs 14–20. “We’ve responded to pressure pretty well for the most part all season,” said junior Rick McMullen, “but not this time.”
“The game was evenly matched,” said head coach Anthony Stamatopoulos. “It was a big upset; Ferris played very, very well.”
Leading the Tartan offense was senior Alex Knecht, who had four goals throughout the game. Sophomore Matt Adams added four points with three goals and an assist. Junior Chris Broglie had two goals and an assist. Junior Tomo Gibson and sophomore Zach Teeple each had a pair of goals. McMullen rounded out the Tartan offense with a goal and an assist. McMullen also won 17 out of 28 faceoffs. First-year goalie Jake Spiegel had 25 saves during the game.
Despite a strong offense, the Tartan defense was unable to shut down the Bulldogs. “We had trouble containing Ferris’ shooters,” said senior Christian D’Andrea. In particular, Ferris State sophomore Austin Freshour, a recent transfer from Butler University (a Division I school) racked up nine goals for the Bulldogs.
It was a “first line defensive breakdown,” Stamatopoulos said. “We won almost every faceoff, but they got pretty much all of the ground balls.”
After the first quarter, the score was 4–3, the Tartans only trailing by one, but the Bulldogs widened the gap, scoring seven goals to the Tartans’ five and going into halftime with an 11–8 lead. Carnegie Mellon’s lack of depth got them into trouble late in the game as fatigue lead to 12 penalties compared to Ferris State’s eight. “We got a lot of penalties towards the end,” said McMullen. “We were just so tired we got desperate, so they scored more, so we got more desperate.”
“Most teams in the playoffs were about twice our size,” said D’Andrea. “We only had six players coming off the bench at any given time; this hurt us more as games wore on.”
It was a night for upsets; earlier in the evening the undefeated and 10th-ranked University of Dayton was defeated by 17th-ranked Calvin College in the other semifinal game.
Carnegie Mellon’s loss paired them against Dayton in Saturday’s consolation game, a match-up that Carnegie Mellon had been predicting. “We knew we were going to be playing Dayton,” said McMullen. “We just thought it was going to be in the championship.”
Without the pressure of a championship hanging over their heads, Carnegie Mellon and Dayton went into Saturday’s game much more relaxed. “Both teams came into Saturday with mutual respect,” McMullen said. “There was less pressure, but it was a better, harder-played game for both teams.”
Saturday’s game was an even match-up, with Carnegie Mellon and Dayton exchanging the lead throughout the game. “It was a good game, back and forth,” said Stamatopoulos. “We pretty much dominated possession.” But it was Dayton who ultimately came out on top, winning 12–9.
The game was tight from the start. Dayton ended up leading 2–1 after the first quarter. Carnegie Mellon came back to tie the game to 4–4 at the half. The score was 8–7 with the Tartans in the lead going into the fourth quarter when Dayton scored two quick goals to pull ahead, where they remained for the rest of the game.
Carnegie Mellon sophomore Matt Schulz had long goal from back on defense to start the Tartan offense. Knecht, Adams, and Broglie each had two goals. Senior Troy Cox found the back of the net once and McMullen had a goal and won 14 out of 23 faceoffs. Spiegel had 20 saves throughout the game.
In the championship game, Calvin went on to upset Ferris State 14–6, earning them an automatic bid into the national tournament in Dallas, Texas.
Despite coming in fourth in the tournament, four Tartans received recognition for their individual performances. Knecht was named to All-Conference Attack second team, McMullen and Cox were named to the All-Conference Midfield second team, and Schulz received an honorable mention to the
All-Conference Defense second team. Stamatopoulos also received the co-coach of the year award for the conference.
Although the Tartans came away from the postseason disappointed, Carnegie Mellon’s first year in the CCLA was a success. “It was a great season,” D’Andrea said. “The quality of the games and the practice schedule were at a level that the team has never seen since I’ve been here, but we responded to every challenge.”
“[The weekend] was really disappointing,” McMullen said, “We’re taking it personally, and we’re already thinking about next year.”