In its NCAA record 13th national semifinal appearance, the top-seeded Adelphi men’s lacrosse team came up short.
A 17-9 loss to No. 3 Merrimack on Saturday eliminated the host Panthers, keeping 2001 as the most recent year they won a national championship.
But the Panthers, who won the NE-10 regular season title, were tabbed third in the conference’s preseason poll. In other words, earning a top seed in the NCAA Tournament and reaching the semifinals was an accomplishment in itself.
After missing the NCAA Tournament last year, the Panthers (15-4) believe their 2017 season should be considered a step in the right direction.
“With the way we ended this year, I feel like the only way we can go is up,” sophomore defender Jack Thomann said. “We’ve got a lot of good returning guys. We’re losing a lot of good guys, but they’ve instilled the foundation of hard work and just play every game like it’s your last. I think they’ve really helped us become a better team overall and it’ll show in years to come.”
The Panthers’ Nicolas Racalbuto scooped up a rebound and scored the game’s first goal with fewer than 90 seconds off the clock, but Merrimack responded with 11 straight goals to take an 11-1 lead into halftime.
Charlie Bertrand and Tim Towler each scored two of their game-high four goals during the first half, and Edward Hellier made five of his nine saves.
Adelphi’s Mark Andrejack and Merrimack’s Blake Boudreau split 14 first-half face-offs, but Merrimack’s high-powered offense dominated, one that ranked third nationally in scoring.
“Mark did a fantastic job, but we didn’t turn those possessions into goals early,” Adelphi coach Gordon Purdie said. “I think when that happens to this team it sort of had us second-guessing ourselves and then we didn’t make the right plays at times that we should have.”
With an offense that ranked 36th nationally with 10.61 goals per game, Adelphi faced a deep hole. But Gordon Purdie Jr. scored 42 seconds after halftime and after the teams traded goals, five different Panthers scored during a 5-0 run that cut the gap to 15-9 with 5:11 remaining.
“Coach Purdie, (associate head) coach (Joe Catalanotti), they were like don’t let this be your last game,” Thomann said of the halftime talk. “You’ve got to give it all you’ve got for the seniors. Don’t let this be their last game. Don’t let them go home. We came out as hard as we could and we fought until the end.”
This was not Adelphi’s first season-ending loss to Merrimack in recent memory. The Warriors defeated the Panthers 14-13 in an overtime classic in last year’s NE-10 semifinals and ousted them in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
“It’s a great rivalry right now,” Purdie said. “I think that the guys completely have bought in to working their tails off and getting the best out of each other, but it’s a disappointing loss for us and it’s one that this summer we’ll need to take care of and regroup.”
Merrimack will face the winner of No. 1 Limestone and No. 3 Tampa May 28 in the national championship. In 2001, Adelphi defeated Limestone for its eighth and most recent national title.