In most sports, a 13-1 record would earn an at-large bid to an NCAA tournament. However, the 2009-10 Mercyhurst lacrosse team found out the hard way that this isn’t always the case.
Last year, the Lakers returned a number of key players from that 13-1 squad and set out to make up their post-season snub.
Mercyhurst shot out of the gate with four victories to start off the 2011 Spring season. The team then faced their first setback, losing to an unranked Chestnut Hill team. Just like that, the Lakers could not better their 13-1 mark from the previous year and were on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament.
The 2010-11 team was on pace to be the first team in Coach Chris Ryan’s tenure to not make the postseason.
“I viewed that as unacceptable. I take that personally, and we recruit under the tradition that we will get the opportunity to play in the post-season,” Ryan said.
The team went back to work, reeling off four straight wins with two coming over ranked opponents. The Lakers then faced one of the biggest challenges of the year: defending champion C.W. Post on the road. The Lakers fought hard but fell 4-3, their second loss of the season.
“The first Post game was a confidence boost. We began to believe we were one of the best teams in Division II,” Ryan said.
Sure enough, the Lakers went back to playing as one of the best teams in Division II. They finished off the season on a five game winning streak, including a landmark victory over then number one Limestone. The team capped off the regular season with a 12-2 record.
The 12-2 mark was enough to lift the Lakers into the NCAA tournament.
Mercyhurst began postseason play against a familiar foe, C.W. Post. Mercyhurst had lost the previous two meetings against C.W. Post, but this time things were different.
“The second Post game everyone was loose and ready to play. We scored quick, and it changed the momentum right away and that was huge for us,” junior Kyle Kallay said.
Kallay was right. The Lakers beat C.W. Post 14-4, making a statement that they weren’t to be taken lightly.
“It absolutely was a statement game. Not many people gave us a chance going into that game,” Ryan said.
The Lakers then knocked off Adelphi on May 29 in a thrilling 9-8 battle, for the right to call themselves National Champions.
“The hallmark of last year’s team was that a different guy stepped up every game right when we needed them. Looking back, that’s the sign of a great team,” Ryan said.
Helping the team along the way was massive support from Mercyhurst fans. Laker fans packed the stands for the title game.
“The support was huge for us,” Kallay said.
The team would like to thank the Advancement Office for setting up and running the tailgate and “representing Mercyhurst with the highest quality,” Ryan added.