Even though New England College won the North Atlantic Conference lacrosse championship, Union coach Paul Wehrum didn’t think Wednesday’s NCAA Division III men’s lacrosse tournament first-round game against the Pilgrims would be a difficult contest.
Wehrum was right. The Pilgrims never had a chance.
Sixteen Dutchmen scored at least one goal, and Union jumped on New England College early and often in a 24-4 rout at Frank Bailey Field.
The ninth-ranked Dutchmen (14-3), who were the Liberty League tournament runners-up, advance to Saturday’s second round against Amherst. The site of the game will be determined today.
How easy was the Dutchmen’s win? They jumped out to a 7-1 lead after the first quarter, and had a 21-3 shots advantage. They forced the Pilgrims (14-4) to turn the ball over nine times.
At the start of the second quarter, Wehrum replaced starting goalie Stefan Basile with Devyn Jefferies. The Dutchmen had a 14-2 lead at halftime. It could have been more, but four of Union’s first-half shots hit the post.
“We knew, coming in, that we were going to be the better team,” Wehrum said. “We prepared for that. It was very easy. We move the ball so quick, and we’re great defensively. We’re very strong in the goal. And the big thing in lacrosse is the faceoff. It’s almost like the jump ball in basketball. We always had the ball, and they didn’t have the ball much.”
Asked why it was so easy against the Pilgrims, Wehrum said, “Better lacrosse players. With the ability to go behind the cage and turn defensive ends’ heads, they watch the ball a lot, and we cut back door a great deal. A lot of those goals were easy goals. We shoot on two of the best goalies in the country every day. That’s why it was easy.
“We have great players coming into Union. . . . We just want to keep it rolling.”
The Dutchmen scored the game’s first five goals in the opening 9:11. Attackman Nolan Stauffer capped the outburst by scoring two of his three goals. That extended his goal-scoring streak to 11 games.
“It’s definitely a big start for us,” said Stauffer, who also had an assist and has 22 goals on the season. “This is my sophomore year. This is my first time in the NCAA tournament. It’s good to get us rolling for what, hopefully, starts us on a run to get us to Baltimore [for the NCAA championship game].”
After Adam Shute scored the Pilgrims’ first goal to snap Union’s opening run, the Dutchmen put on a clinic. They scored the next eight goals to take a 13-1 lead with 4:50 left in the second quarter.
“The start of the game is crucial, especially in the NCAAs, where hype is high,” said freshman attackman Kyle Mason, who had two goals and two assists. “A good start creates good momentum, and everyone gets excited. It definitely plays a huge role in the start of the game.”
The 24 goals were the most the Dutchmen have scored this season, topping the 19 they got against DeSales on March 22 and Vassar on April 19. Richard Gregory and Daniel Kycia collected two goals and an assist each. Also scoring twice for the Dutchmen were Greg Mooney, Jack O’Connor and Charlie Ross.
“It really doesn’t help in our confidence because we were so superior,” Wehrum said. “You just don’t want to get kids hurt. But it’s nice to score that many goals.”
New England College 1 1 1 1 — 4
Union 7 7 6 4 — 24
New England College scoring: Adam Shute 4-0, Sean Lagary 0-1, Pat Miles 0-1, Garrett Naime 0-1, Skyler Saunders 0-1. Union scoring: Nolan Stauffer 3-1, Kyle Mason 2-2, Richard Gregory 2-1, Daniel Kycia 2-1, Charlie Ross 2-0, Jack O’Connor 2-0, Greg Mooney 2-0, Peter Richardson 1-3, Alex D’Amario 1-2, Jake Quinn 1-1, Jack Scheufele 1-1, Paul Albert 1-1, Paul Alberti 1-1, Pat DeBendetto 1-1, Tom Stanton 1-0, Adam Rosenthal 1-0, Lance Lonergan 1-0, Rob Santangelo 0-3, Dylan Tripodi 0-2.
Goalkeepers: New England College, Chris Galluzzo, 10 saves. Union, Stefan Basile, 2 saves; Devyn Jefferies, 8 saves.