SCHENECTADY — How long did it take the Union College men’s lacrosse program to turn its attention from celebrating Wednesday’s NCAA tournament victory to its latest matchup with RIT?
Dutchmen head coach Paul Wehrum had the answer to that question ready just moments after Union topped Cortland, his alma mater, in a second-round game.
“What time is it now?” said Wehrum, setting up his punchline. “In about two minutes when we go inside.”
Truthfully, though, Union didn’t need a ton of preparation to get itself ready to play RIT. When Union plays 7 p.m. Saturday at RIT with a trip to the Division III national tournament quarterfinals on the line, the teams will be meeting for the third time in 18 days. RIT won each of the first two matchups, first 12-9 at Union and then 14-6 on its home field to claim the Liberty League championship.
“We know what to expect now,” Union junior Edward Winters said. “There’s not much more they can possibly throw at us. We didn’t play our best games the first two times, so I think we’ve got a good shot of beating them this time.”
With a victory, No. 12 Union (14-3) will earn its third-ever trip to the NCAA quarterfinals. No. 1 RIT (19-1), though, has won 14 games in a row and previously defeated Union three times in a season in both 2014 and 2015.
“They’re a team where every single mistake you make, they bring it back and push it right back at you,” Union sophomore Keaton McCann said. “We’ve got to limit those [mistakes], move the ball and stay hot.”
After falling behind in Wednesday’s second-round game, Union put together a 10-2 run that stretched from the second quarter into the fourth of a 12-7 win. Senior goalie Jack Santilli made eight saves and allowed five goals in 57:05 against Cortland, and Wehrum said Union needs a similar effort from the senior to get past RIT.
“We have to face off a little bit better against them and Santilli has to have another great game,” Wehrum said.
Union is one win away from matching its program’s record for most wins in a season. The Dutchmen won 15 games in 2014, which was the last season in which Union made it to the NCAA quarterfinals.
They’re underdogs against RIT, but McCann said the Dutchmen aren’t satisfied with their season.
“We’re starving right now,” McCann said. “We’re ready.”