Lexington, KY – For the second straight year, the Transylvania men's lacrosse team advanced to the Ohio River Lacrosse Conference championship game with a 14-5 win over the Thiel Tomcats in Wednesday's conference semifinal at Pat Deacon Stadium.
It was a sweet and crucial victory for the No. 1 seed Pioneers, who exacted a measure of revenge against the only team that had beaten Transylvania in their ORLC regular season slate.
After dropping a 12-10 result on the road against the Tomcats on April 2, the Pioneers left no doubt as to who was the prime victor just over one month later.
The Pioneers improved to 9-6 overall in 2016, while moving to 7-1 against ORLC competition.
The win advances the Pioneers into their second straight conference tournament championship game; last year's title bout occurred against the St. Vincent Bearcats at Pat Deacon Stadium with a 12-5 win coming in the hands of the host Pioneers. Now in 2016, the surging Transylvania lacrosse squad will aim to make it back-to-back tournament titles in front of their hometown fans.
The opening quarter of Wednesday's tussle featured all the defensive intensity a prototypical lacrosse fan could wish for. Transylvania created a plethora of shots in the first quarter but Thiel goalie Charles Wistner held strong for most of the period. The Tomcats issued the first goal of the game which came nearly 10 minutes into the contest on a fiery shot from Timothy O'Shea, as Thiel moved ahead 1 to 0.
But Transylvania, with focus and hunger continued to hack away at Wistner's armor, finally breaking through with nine seconds to go in the first quarter as Josh Mesmer found paydirt, equalizing the game at 1-all.
The second quarter was an all-out blitz by the Pioneers. Zack Riggs set up Clark Watts on a quick strike for a 2-1 lead, and while Thiel tied the game nearly a minute and a half later on a score by Shawndel Evans, the Pioneers rhythm became aligned.
The Pioneers made it clear who was the home team and the No. 1 seed as they outscored Thiel the rest of the half 7 to 1, including the last five goals of the half. Ben Erwin started the run on a setup from Watts, and Erwin then spread the wealth to his teammate Alex Cherry who scored for a 4-2 lead with 7:59 remaining in the half.
Riggs scored his first goal of the half after Thiel's final goal of the second quarter. Riggs's goal with a shade under three minutes to go in the half started an overwhelming wave by the Pioneers in which they scored five consecutive goals with less than three minutes to go, the final one arriving with 29 seconds in the first half by Ryan Staley. By halftime, Transylvania had seized the momentum and a 9-3 halftime lead.
Transylvania maintained their grasp upon the game into the second half, outscoring Thiel 3 goals to 1 in quarter three. Andrew Meyer, Staley, and Watts all connected on goals in the third quarter, with Tanner Wright assisting on the first two. The Pioneers tacked two more goals on for aesthetics in the fourth quarter as Meyer and Riggs found the back of the net once more.
Watts, Meyer, Cherry and Riggs all posted two-goal games and goalkeeper Cooper Fogle made four saves on the evening.
The Pioneers were aggressive to the ball all night long on an night which was delayed an hour by multiple lightning strikes; when the Pioneers eventually took the field after much anticipation, they claimed 38 ground balls to Thiel's 29.
Transylvania achieved perfection on rides in their semifinal duel, clearing all 17 of their attempts, while forcing Thiel into 11 failed clears. It was the mark of a team that has been dominant defensively all season long.
The Pioneers now look ahead to a Saturday battle with No. 3 seed Washington & Jefferson, who upended Hanover in Indiana 10 to 8 in the other ORLC semifinal match. The championship game at Pat Deacon Stadium begins at a time to be determined.
For the latest on Transylvania men's lacrosse, follow their official twitter @Transy_Lax
Visit the ORLC tournament headquarters webpage HERE