NCAA Tournament Preview: Transylvania MLAX visits Washington and Lee in second-round matchup

Tournament Preview

Lexington, Va. – For the second straight season, the Transylvania men's lacrosse team returns to the NCAA Division III Men's Lacrosse Tournament, facing the Washington and Lee University Generals on Wednesday, May 9 at 5:30 p.m. in an NCAA second-round matchup.

Transylvania clinched an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament last Saturday by defeating Saint Vincent College 12-2 in the Ohio River Men's Lacrosse Conference Championship game, winning its fourth straight conference championship.

With the ORLC in its second year of awarding an NCAA automatic bid, the Pioneers advanced to their second NCAA Tournament in school history.

Wednesday's NCAA matchup will mark the first-ever meeting between the Pioneers (12-6, 9-1 Ohio River Lacrosse Conference) and Generals (14-4, 9-0 Old Dominion Athletic Conference) of Washington and Lee, who clinched an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.  

The second-round matchup pits a clash of a veteran program in Washington and Lee, which is returning to the tournament for the first time in two years, and an upstart program in Transylvania, which is in its second consecutive NCAA Tournament run in the program's sixth year of existence.

Washington and Lee comes roaring into NCAA Tournament play, reeling off a 14-game win streak before falling to Lynchburg 11-8 in the ODAC Tournament semifinals last Friday. After placing second in the ORLC regular season, the Pioneers prevailed over first-place St. Vincent in the tournament championship to enter the NCAA Tournament on a season-best seven-game win streak, having won eight of their last nine games.

After losing eight seniors from its inaugural NCAA Tournament squad in 2017, the Pioneers are back in the NCAA Tournament with a young and balanced squad offensively, with a peppering of athleticism edge-to-edge on the field.

Transylvania has powered up defensively this season, holding ORLC opponents to fewer than five goals per game. In 18 games overall, the Pioneers are holding opponents to 7.17 goals per contest.

The Pioneers are led by sophomore long-stick midfielder T.J. Toivonen, who leads the ORLC in caused turnovers (55) and was third in conference in ground balls (97). Toivonen was named the ORLC's Defensive Player of the Year on Monday for serving as the catalyst for the Pioneers' defense. Transylvania has also received a lift from all-ORLC first-teamer, junior defensive midfielder Webb VanMeter in their defensive endeavor.

In 2018, the Pioneers have mounted a diverse offensive attack comprising an assortment of talented scorers. Sophomore attacker Trenton Sneed led the ORLC in assists with 43, and also scored 26 goals, finishing second in the ORLC in points. Senior midfielder Brad Clements is the team's leading goal-scorer with 28 on the year. Clements is joined by Sneed, junior attacker Nic Bailey (24 goals), senior midfielder Josh Mesmer (24), and freshman midfielder Kayd Aquino (21) are all 20-plus goal-scorers for the Pioneers in 2018. 

Together, the Pioneers are averaging 11.89 goals per game. Once again, Transylvania is enjoying another proficient year in clearing: the Pioneers led the ORLC in clear percentage at 84.8 percent.

The key offensive force for the Generals is attacker A.J. Witherell, who ranks second in the ODAC with 54 goals. Witherell's 30 assists are a team-high and ranks as third-most in the conference. Attacker Sam Dardani is second on the Generals in points with 48 and has scored 37 goals this season.

Washington and Lee's defensive profile is a formidable one. The Generals rank first in the ODAC in goals-against average, yielding 8.28 goals per game. W&L ranks first in the ODAC in face-off percentage, winning 63.2 percent of its face-offs this year.

Washington and Lee is making its 20th NCAA Tournament appearance with Wednesday's match. The Pioneers are guided by sixth-year head coach Terry Justice, who carries a career record of 62-24 into this week. The Generals are led by 12th-year head coach Gene McCabe, who is 143-72.  

The winner of Wednesday's second-round game will advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament on May 12 to face either Dickinson or Lynchburg.

Admission to Wednesday's tournament game is $10 for adults and $5 for students with ID and children over the age of 5.

For more on Transylvania men's lacrosse, follow @Transy_Lax on Twitter