Adelphi won the Division II men's lacrosse national championship on...

Adelphi won the Division II men's lacrosse national championship on Sunday.  Credit: Newsday/Tom Rock

PHILADELPHIA — There probably were some encouraging words and speeches delivered and a few adjustments to the game plan made while the Adelphi men’s lacrosse team simmered in its locker room at halftime. But that’s not what anyone will remember from the intermission of Sunday’s Division II national championship game at Lincoln Financial Field.

Rather, they’ll recall the feeling when they came back out on the field and saw that the skies had opened up and rain was falling.

“We eat that up,” Adelphi coach Gordon Purdie said of embracing the rain. “We took it as a true sign that the game would be ours.”

See, so many of Adelphi’s games and practices this season had been impacted, delayed and even postponed because of bad weather. It got to the point that the Panthers embraced the downpours and even gave themselves a meteorological moniker befitting their inclement inclinations: the Rain Dogs.

Now they can call themselves something else: Best in Show.

Top-seeded Adelphi roared back from a deficit that was as large as four goals early in the third quarter to beat Lenoir-Rhyne, 12-10, on Sunday and brought the championship trophy up the Jersey Turnpike and back to Garden City for the first time since 2001 — before many of the current players were even born.

“There’s no feeling like this in the world,” said Brian Harinski, the senior midfielder from Massapequa who scored four goals, all in the second half, and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. “There was never a doubt in our minds.”

Dylan Renner, a senior goalie from Mineola, made 15 saves, many at point-blank range.

“This truthfully means everything,” Renner said. “It means everything to me, it means everything to this program .  .  . Time after time we’ve seen great Adelphi teams fall a little bit short. I told my team that if we could just get here and get another shot at Lenoir-Rhyne [which beat Adelphi, 7-3, in February], I was not going to let us lose. And our team showed up. I can’t thank them enough for everything.”

The comeback didn’t seem to start with a save or a goal, though. It began with a hit. Lenoir-Rhyne (17-2) had just scored to go ahead 9-6 off a no-look pass with 5:14 left in the third quarter, and things looked bleak for Adelphi (17-2). They even lost the ensuing faceoff. But Gavin Herzog, a sophomore midfielder from East Islip, delivered a yard sale check that stripped the stick from Matthew Mancini’s hands right in front of the Adelphi bench, forcing a turnover and sending the Panthers howling.

“Oh my goodness,” Herzog said. “You can only dream of a check like that. I was telling my teammates that if there is one thing that would happen in this game, it was that I would land a good check.”

That possession ended with a goal from graduate student Kyle Steinbach (Garden City) that made it 9-7 with 4:26 left in the third and began a stretch of 14:59 — nearly one full quarter of play — in which Lenoir-Rhyne could not score.

Adelphi, meanwhile, scored five straight during that stretch. Harinski tied the score at 9 with 10:48 left in the game and Steinbach put Adelphi ahead 10-9 off a pass from Kyle Lewis (Carey). That goal with 9:24 remaining was Adelphi’s first lead since it had been up 1-0 very early on.

The victory obviously meant a lot to the players, most of whom are from Long Island, but it also meant so much to Purdie, the coach who grew up on a far different island: Australia.

“I came to Adelphi as a player in 1986 and I’ve been here ever since,” Purdie said. “It’s been an unbelievable home for me. This is why I left Australia and said to my parents from JFK Airport: ‘I’m not coming home.’  ”

He recalled calling Tom Flatley, the former coach at Garden City, from the New York Public Library, telling him he wanted to play lacrosse in the States. Flatley directed him to Adelphi, where he first met that school’s coach, Paul “Doc” Doherty.

Doherty passed away in 2020, but Purdie wore one of his coaching polo shirts for Sunday’s game to honor him and made sure Doherty’s daughters were in attendance for the event.

Clutching the wood and gold trophy for the first time in his life while former players chanted his name from the stands, Purdie said: “To bring this back and give this championship to Adelphi, to [the memory of former Adelphi coach Paul “Doc” Doherty], his daughters, the alumni who have worked so hard, is purely just a blessing.”

But to win it in the fashion that was displayed Sunday — in a comeback and through that beautiful, auspicious rain — felt like a specific nod to the makeup of this year’s squad.

Many of them, like Steinbach, Harinski and Renner, played their last collegiate game of lacrosse.

“This is it,” Steinbach, a graduate student, said of his playing career, a tuft of the net he’d just snipped out of the goal dangling from his newly earned national championship cap. “But it’s an ideal way to go out, baby!”


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