For the last three years, the men’s lacrosse team season has ended in heartbreak. Each year, the Bobcats have fallen short of their goal: to win the Northeast Conference title. After losing to Mount St. Mary’s in the NEC championship game in 2011, the Bobcats made the semifinals in 2012, but were ousted by Bryant.
This season, Quinnipiac (6-7, 3-2 NEC) hopes it can finally get over the hump and win the NEC championship. The winner of the conference title game is also granted an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament
“Going into the playoffs, we are very confident,” junior goaltender Gill Conners said. “Yes, we lost to Robert Morris but their offense is one of the most powerful in the NEC, and we kept them under 10 goals which is very hard to do. I believe we are playing at our best right now and we are ready to show it going into the playoffs.”
Against NEC foes that qualified for the postseason tournament, Quinnipiac lost to Bryant 17-7, beat Sacred Heart 13-12 in triple overtime after Sagl’s gamewinner, and lost to Robert Morris, 9-7.
“In the NEC there is no better team than the others and this season has shown that,” Conners said. “Whoever shows up to play on the day of the game will win. Once playoffs start, everyone is 0-0. Whoever shows up to play this next week will win the NEC no matter what their record is.”
Bryant is the host school and the No. 1 overall seed after going 4-1 in conference play. Robert Morris owns the tiebreaker with the Bobcats taking the No. 2 seed, while Sacred Heart is the four seed and will play the Bulldogs in the first semifinal at 1 p.m on May 3. The Bobcats then will face off at 4 p.m. The championship game will be held on May 4 at 1 p.m.
The 2013 regular season has been an atypical one for the Bobcats. Quinnipiac made plenty of noise early on as it started 3-0 for the first time since 2008 and was ranked No. 20 in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Poll for the first time in program history.
A tough month of March, however, saw the Bobcats struggle as they lost five consecutive games, losing four by two goals or less.
The Bobcats have a well-balanced offense led by sophomore attackman Michael Sagl. Sagl leads the Bobcats with 44 points, on 22 goals and assists. Sagl ranks third in the conference with points per game with 3.38 and fourth in assists per game with 1.69.
Quinnipiac boasts four other players with 20 or more points. Senior midfield captain Basil Kostaras is tied for second on the squad with 25 points along with Brendan Wilbur and Pat Corcoran. Kostaras has scored 18 goals and added seven assists. Wilbur has recorded 17 goals and eight assists, while Corcoran has 15 goals and 10 assists. Matt Diehl has collected 23 points on 13 goals and 10 assists. Dylan Webster has corralled a team-high 104 ground balls good for second in the conference only behind Bryant star Kevin Massa’s 194.
Massa is also the conference leader with a 71.0 faceoff percentage. Webster is fifth in the conference in faceoff percentage with a .489.
“It’s very simple when it comes to Bryant, we need to win faceoffs. They killed us at the X last game and that needs to be fixed,” Conners said. “They are a good defense but our offense is better. On the defensive end, we need to play hard and tough but also smart at the same time by staying out of the penalty box. We need to play four quarters and not let up.”
The Colonials have the best offense in the NEC with 11.92 goals per game, also placing second in the league in shots on goal with 22.50 per game.
Bryant is the least penalized team with 2.12 minutes a game, and also has the best penalty-killing unit.
The Bobcats are second in the conference in fewest turnovers per game with 14.77 and have caused the second most turnovers per game with 8.85. Quinnipiac’s defense can be attributed Conners. Conners has been honored with NEC Defensive Player of the Week four times. Conners leads the conference in saves made with 179, save percentage with .563 and in saves per game with 13.77.
“It is very important to not only have a good goaltender in the playoffs, but also a hot one,” Conners said. “There are plenty of goalies out there that may not be having the best season but when it comes to the playoffs, it’s anyone’s game. That’s when you see the best goalies playing at their best times.”
Conners says that the he has stressed the whole year to the team, that the team who shows up on game day, will win the NEC.
The junior college transfer, who won two national championships at Onondaga Community College as part of the National Junior College Athletic Association, believes that five things are important in the playoffs.
“Tough defense, explosive offense, confident goalkeeping, winning the war at the faceoff and, most importantly, whoever has the most heart will the be the winner,” Conners said. “That’s what the playoffs comes down to.”