Ninth-ranked Union nearly upset the top-ranked Rochester Institute of Technology men’s lacrosse team twice this season, including in the Liberty League championship game. Union ended up losing both times on the road by a total of three goals.
Now the 15-3 Dutchmen are ready to try a slightly different strategy when they visit the Tigers once again in the NCAA Division III tournament quarterfinals Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Tiger Stadium in Rochester.
“Definitely, we will come up with something different to throw at them,” said Union head coach Paul Wehrum. “And we’ll do it in the first half, so they have something to think about adjusting to at halftime.”
Wehrum said that it’s no surprise that both previous games were extremely tight.
“There’s not much difference in the talent level of the two teams,” he said. “But the style of play is quite different. They have a lot of Canadian players on their team. They slip and slide more, and they have a lot of good finishers.
“We’re more a power team. They might use a little more finesse, but we’ll go right at you one-on-one.”
Wehrum said there are several ways to look at the game, but he believes there is a lot more pressure on the Tigers.
“They’re the No. 1 team, they are playing home, and they are expected to win,” he said. “But on the other hand, even though some people say it’s hard to beat a good team three times in a season, I disagree. I think if you’ve beaten a good team twice, that means you know how to get the job done. That’s why we’re going to switch some things around.”
The difference, Wehrum hopes, is that his Dutchmen are extremely motivated.
”Our guys are hungry after losing to them in a pair of close games,” he said. “We know these are two quality teams going after each other again. They know we will be well prepared, and we know that they will be well prepared, too. Our guys are trying to win a national title.”
Senior attack Rob Santangelo, the Dutchmen’s active scoring leader with 84 goals and 82 assists, can’t wait for the rematch.
“We run more of a motion offense, where we dodge hard,” he noted. “We like to beat guys one-on-one. They have great players and great finishers, but I think they use more finesse than we do.”
Santangelo agreed that the Dutchmen need to try something a little different to beat the Tigers, but don’t expect a complete overhaul.
“We’ll mix it up, because they’ve come to expect some things from us, but on the other hand, we can’t stop doing the things that got us here,” he said.
“We have a very composed team, and we won’t get rattled at RIT. We definitely won’t go down without a fight, and I’m really glad that we’re playing RIT instead of Ithaca. I think we have a huge edge in motivation. We know we have to get through them in order to get to the national title, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
RIT (19-0) features a potent offense led by Ryan Lee (45 goals, 27 assists, 72 points), Casey Jackson (51-16-67), Allister Warren (27-31-58), Kyle Aquin (39-18-57), Taylor Winsman (26-14-40) and Jack Krzyston (20-11-31).
Union’s balanced attack includes Santangelo (25-23-48), Nolan Stauffer (23-12-35) and Richard Gregory (21-13-34).
Junior goalkeeper Stefan Basile, the Liberty League Defensive Player of the Year, has a 6.79 goals against average and a .648 save percentage.