UNION COLLEGE – For the first time in program history, the Union College men’s lacrosse team will play in the Division III national semifinals.
Union earned that chance Saturday with a memorable victory, a 14-13 win against Gettysburg that the Dutchmen clinched with two goals in the final minute of action at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. Union will play York in Sunday’s 3 p.m. national semifinal, back at Christopher Newport University, with the winner advancing to play in next weekend’s national championship game at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.
Off an assist from Kieran McGovern, Keaton McCann scored the game-winning goal with 9.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s quarterfinal. Before that, McGovern had scored off an assist from McCann with 56 seconds to play to tie the game at 12-12 after Kyle Howard had put Gettysburg ahead with 1:28 to go in regulation.
“It was a back-and-forth game, and we were just so tough,” said third-year Dutchmen head coach Derek Witheford, a 2011 Union alumnus. “We had some things go our way, but this was a really hard-fought win that we earned out there.”
The wild final 90 seconds capped a game that was wildly competitive. The teams were tied after each of the first three quarters, and were separated by no more than one score for 50:38 of the 60 minutes of action. Gettysburg’s largest lead was three when it took a 5-2 lead in the second quarter and Union never led by more than one goal. The Dutchmen secured their first lead of the game midway through the third quarter.
The clubs were tied at 2-2 after one quarter, 5-5 at halftime and 9-9 heading into the fourth. On a score from McGovern, Union took the lead with the fourth quarter’s first goal, then tied the contest at 11-11 with a goal from Zach Davis. McCann tied the game at 12-12 with 3:13 to go, then the teams were scoreless until Howard’s goal started the game’s frantic finish that saw McCann and McGovern provide clutch offense for the Dutchmen.
“They made big plays, and they’ve done that all year for us,” Witheford said of McCann and McGovern, both seniors, during a postgame interview.
McCann was one of six Union players to record multiple points. McCann finished with four goals and three assists to lead all scorers, while McGovern had three goals and an assist, Davis scored three goals, and Peter Burnes added two goals and one assist. Dan Donahue made 10 saves for the Dutchmen.
For Gettysburg, Spencer Knife had three goals and an assist, George Raymond had two goals and two assists, and Connor Hume added three goals.
Key for Union was its performance on faceoffs. Union won 17 of 28 faceoffs, with Matthew Paolatto winning 13 of 17 — including the game’s final seven. After Paolatto’s final faceoff win, the Dutchmen were able to run out of the game’s final seconds to earn its spot in Sunday’s semifinal.
“He won some big ones today. Him and Sam Byrne really did a great job,” said Witheford, whose team received four faceoff wins from Byrne. “Matthew Paolatto got hot, so we stuck with him, but those two guys have done a great job all year for us.”
Union earned the second-to-last one of its faceoff wins after a scramble that saw Clint Gourdeau and Gray Humphrey provide the hustle needed for the Dutchmen to win the coveted possession.
“That’s a play that really sticks out,” Witheford said.
Union, which is ranked eighth and tenth in a pair of national polls, improved to 17-2 on the season. Gettysburg, ranked No. 12 and 16 in the national polls, finished at 14-8.
York defeated host Christopher Newport Saturday in its quarterfinal. With the 10-9 victory, York — ranked fifth and sixth in the national polls — improved to 20-2.
Union had to win games on back-to-back days last weekend to advance to this weekend’s action. Witheford said the club will utilize the “same formula” of rest and preparation as they get set for the first national semifinal in history — and he’s confident heading into that game.
“I know I have a special group here,” Witheford said.
Union 2 3 4 5 — 14
Gettysburg 2 3 4 4 — 13
Union scoring: McCann 4-3, McGovern 3-1, Burnes 2-1, Z. Davis 3-0, Greene 0-2, J. Donahue 0-2, B. Davis 1-0, Frey 1-0, Kip 0-1, Toland 0-1. Gettysburg scoring: Raymond 2-2, Knife 3-2, Hume 3-0, Gallagher 2-1, Howard 1-1, Ward 1-1, Barbera 1-0, Zima 0-1. Goalies: Union, D. Donahue, 10 saves. Gettysburg, MacMillan, 9 saves.