They are the Lions, but for the moment. Dowling's lacrosse team would rather be known as the Avengers. Beating Limestone in Sunday's NCAA Division II championship at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., would provide the ultimate turnaround of a very bitter loss to end the regular season.
Limestone beat Dowling, 15-7, at home on senior day.
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"We're trying to avenge the Limestone loss and try to clear our record," senior attack-midfielder Vito DeMola said.
Losing a game or two can prevent a team from making postseason play. Combined with an earlier loss to Mercyhurst, Limestone could have dealt Dowling a lethal blow.
"It was probably our worst day all year," coach Tim Boyle said. "We really feel like we didn't show that day. We gave up transition goals, we had bad penalties, things that we knew we couldn't do against a team like Limestone. It just happened all at once, kind of like a steamroller effect."
Even Limestone coach J.B. Clarke was surprised, saying, "It was very strange, the first quarter was 4-4, second half was a 3-2 game, the second quarter kind of blew up, I'm not sure why." Limestone scored eight goals in the second period. "All I know is they went up 4-2, they showed up to play, I don't know what happened after that. I don't think that's the same team we are going to see. Obviously, in order to go to the home of the national champions [Mercyhurst] and to beat them speaks a lot about this Dowling team. We were scared to death going into our first game with them. I don't think much has changed about our respect for their players, program or coaches since going into that game."
Limestone goalkeeper Steve Gartelman of Seaford, a transfer from St. John's, expects to see Dowling at its best.
"It's a bigger game, they want revenge," he said. "We know they are a good team. We're not just going to think, 'We blew them out.' We're ready to play a good team."
For Dowling, the Limestone loss resonated into the playoffs, perhaps it even helped.
"We got our first chance to avenge the Mercyhurst loss, which was something we all wanted to do," DeMola said. "Nobody on this team has ever beaten Mercyhurst."
Now, another opportunity beckons on the sport's biggest stage. Goalkeeper Ryan Dougherty said alumni told the current players to "Try not to get too overwhelmed with what's going on, remember that it is a game. I'm sure it's going to be overwhelming playing in a stadium where professionals play, but as far as the game itself, it's just another game, just another day where we have to worry about lacrosse. I've been playing this sport since I remember. Winning this is the best possible way for us seniors and our team to leave our mark on the school."
DeMola echoed that, saying: "This is my 14th season playing lacrosse. This is kind of like our Super Bowl."