Men’s lacrosse advances in first ever NCAA tournament game

Max Molski

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The Quinnipiac men’s lacrosse team and the Hartford Hawks have played nail-biters in their recent matchups against one another. Six of the last nine contests between the two teams had been decided by one goal with four of those games going into overtime.

The familiar foes met once again on Wednesday at the QU Field Hockey/Lacrosse Field in the Preliminary Round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship. This time around, Quinnipiac separated itself from the in-state rival.

The Bobcats beat the Hawks 14-9 before a crowd of 1,547 in the program’s first NCAA tournament game.

“I’ve said many times this is the best group I’ve coached in terms of being on board,” Quinnipiac head coach Eric Fekete said. “These guys are always doing whatever you tell them. They’re very coachable and they’re a great group of workers.”

Brendan Gates opened up the scoring for the Hawks 3:14 into the contest. However, after the early letup, the Bobcats controlled the rest of the first quarter. The team strung together four unanswered goals from four different scorers.

Hartford made it a 4-3 game by scoring two consecutive goals to start the second period. Yet, Quinnipiac controlled the remainder of the quarter once again.

Ryan Keenan made it a 5-3 game by bouncing a goal in from the right side with 4:22 left in the half. The Bobcats then controlled the ball for the final minute of the half and capitalized as Brian Feldman fired in his 34th goal of the season with 14.4 seconds on the clock.

Quinnipiac dominated the start of the third quarter. Foster Cuomo scored just 1:17 into the half and Ryan Corcoran struck with another goal just 31 seconds later. Cuomo completed a hat trick with a goal that put the Bobcats up 9-3 with 12:10 left in the third.

“I didn’t really expect any of this,” Cuomo said, “But it’s awesome.”

Hartford made it a 9-5 game with consecutive goals, but Quinnipiac countered with another three-goal stretch. Kevin Diehl, Cuomo and Drew D’Antonio scored, respectively, to put Quinnipiac up 12-5.

While the Bobcats took control of the game with offensive spurts, goaltender Jack Brust continued to build off his Most Outstanding Player performance in the MAAC tournament.

“Every time I put on pads, I want to put my team in the best position to win,” Brust said. “If I can make the saves I’m supposed to and steal a couple I’m not supposed to, good for us.”

Brust stopped 18 total shots against Hartford to tie the season-high he set in the MAAC Semifinal game against Canisius on May 5. He made six saves in the third and fourth quarters as the Hawks attempted 28 total shots in the second half.

“We have so much confidence that he’s going to make that big stop,” Cuomo said. “It translates from our defense to our offense. When you have a goalie making stops like that, you’re not too worried about taking the extra shot on offense because you know when they come back down, he’s going to make that big stop.”

Although Hartford outscored Quinnipiac in the final quarter, Adam Bellamy scored his first goal of the season for the Bobcats in the fourth quarter and Feldman tacked on another goal to bring the final score to 14-9.

Quinnipiac advances to play at Maryland, the No. 1 overall seed in the national tournament, on Sunday. The Terrapins have made it to the Final Four of the national tournament in each of the last two seasons. Yet, Fekete said his team will take the same approach it has all season.

“If you have the recipe right, you don’t want to change the ingredients or change the way you cook it,” Fekete said. “We’ll just cook the same way we’ve been cooking the last eight weeks.”

Brust said he just wants the team’s season to continue in a year where it has already shattered barriers that have stood in front of the program.

“It’s a great group of guys on and off the field. We love being together,” Brust said. “So why not us? Why not win a few more?”