SCHENECTADY — Making its program’s first appearance in the national tournament since 2015, the Union College men’s lacrosse took some time to get going.
In the second quarter, though, the Dutchmen got rolling — and, once they did, they rolled right along to a 12-7 win Wednesday against Cortland at Frank Bailey Field in the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament.
“Once we settled down and just played our game,” Union junior Edward Winters said, “that was it for us.”
Down 2-0 early and 3-2 after one period, Union scored five unanswered goals to start the second quarter. That stretch included three goals from sophomore Kieran McGovern, and it started a 10-2 run for the Dutchmen that extended deep into the fourth quarter.
“Feels great, especially for these seniors,” said Union sophomore Keaton McCann, who scored four goals. “It’s their last game here, and you could see the emotions toward the end.”
With the victory, No. 12 Union set itself up for yet another meeting with No. 1 RIT in Saturday’s third round. RIT bested Union 12-9 in the regular-season finale at Frank Bailey Field, then RIT topped Union 14-6 on its home field to claim the Liberty League championship. The teams will meet Saturday at RIT for the third time in 18 days.
“This is what we’ve been working for all season,” Winters said. “The beginning of the season, we said we wanted to win the Liberty League and make the NCAAs. Unfortunately, we missed the first one, but we made the NCAAs and now that’s all we’re thinking about.”
For a quarter against Cortland, Union struggled to attack with precision. The Dutchmen attempted 10 shots in the opening 15 minutes, but six of them didn’t end in a goal or a save.
The saves made, too, were too easy for Union head coach Paul Wehrum’s liking.
His advice to his team before the second quarter?
“Aim for the white strings,” he said, “not the goalie’s helmet.”
McGovern tied the game early in the second quarter with a hard shot, and then put Union ahead a few minutes later with another unassisted score. From there, Union’s offense took advantage of its opportunities and the Dutchmen defense refused to give Cortland much of a chance to get back in the game. Cortland committed 21 turnovers to Union’s 16, and the Dutchmen generated 42 shots to Cortland’s 27.
“When you turn it over,” Cortland head coach Steve Beville said, “you don’t get shots and you don’t have a chance to score — and, when we did [get shots], their goalie was outstanding.”
That was Union senior Jack Santilli, who made eight saves and allowed five goals in 57:05 of game action.
“With him in net,” Winters, a defenseman, said, “we feel like we can beat anyone.”
Union led 7-4 at halftime and shut out Cortland in the third quarter as it increased its lead to 9-4. The Dutchmen led by as many as seven goals in the fourth quarter, and held Cortland to two goals during a stretch of 45:41 of game action that started late in the first quarter and only ended after Santilli had been removed from the game late in the fourth.
“They’re the heart and soul of the team,” McCann said of the team’s defense. “You’ve got to admit it at this point. They’ve been playing great all year.”
The win for Union came against Wehrum’s alma mater. Wehrum, a 1972 Cortland graduate, was a three-time All-American during his college playing days and served as an assistant coach for Cortland’s 1973 team that won the program’s first national championship.
All-time, Union is 7-4 in NCAA tournament play and 6-0 at Frank Bailey Field. With a win Saturday, Union would advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014 and for only the third time in program history.
“It’s going to be a daunting challenge, but we’re ready for it,” Wehrum said of his team’s next meeting with RIT. “These kids don’t want to say goodbye to Union lacrosse just yet.”
Cortland 3 1 0 3 — 7
Union 2 5 2 3 — 12
Cortland scoring: Riley 0-2, Panariello 1-1, Stiles 3-0, Haggerty 1-0, Williams 1-0, Moreno 1-0. Union scoring: Lyne 1-0, Sands 2-1, K. McGovern 3-0, Kaufman 1-0, Flood 1-1, McCann 4-0, Davis 0-1.
Goalies: Cortland, Esposito, 8 saves. Union, Santilli, 8 saves; Goldheim, 0 saves.