FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The Wesleyan University men's lacrosse team made history on Sunday afternoon as the Cardinals won the 2018 NCAA Division III Men's Lacrosse Championship with an 8-6 victory over No. 3 Salisbury University at Gillette Stadium. Senior Harry Stanton, the program's all-time leader in goals, was named the Most Outstanding Player as he scored two more today including an assist on another.
The Cardinals (19-3)—ranked No. 9 in the country—played in their first national championship game ever while the Sea Gulls (20-4) were looking to capture their third-straight title and 13th overall, which would have tied Hobart's Division III record for most championships. Additionally, with the win, head coach John Raba brings home the first-ever national team title in Wesleyan University history, which happens to be the same day as commencement.
"It's an incredible moment for our program," said Raba. "Our senior group has worked so hard for years now, so it's not just, you know, today's day. This is the culmination of what we've been doing and guys believing that we had the team to get to a National Championship and win it."
The Cardinals came out strong and jumped out to a 4-0 lead within the first 7:51 of play—with goals from four different players—and they never looked back. Salisbury got within one, twice, and scored the first goal of the second half to trail 5-4 with 10:12 to play in the third quarter. However, Wesleyan rallied nicely with a 3-0 run and despite getting shut out in the fourth, the Cardinals' stifling defense made it difficult for Salisbury to find an open shot.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- The Cardinals came out of the gates flying with three goals in the first four minutes, 14 seconds.
- During a game of runs, Ghesquiere put the squad up 1-0 just 34 seconds into the first, and then junior Christian Barker doubled Wesleyan's lead two minutes, 23 seconds later. The Cardinals claimed a 3-0 lead with 10:46 showing on the clock, as senior Harry Stanton picked the lower corner of the net.
- Wesleyan continued to stay aggressive and after a few minutes of back-and-forth lacrosse, senior Cole Turpin eluded a Sea Gulls' defender behind the net with a spin move, and then spotted junior Carter Hawthorne, who buried a shot into the lower-right corner with 7:09 left, pushing the advantage up to 4-0.
- Salisbury started settling in with some offensive-zone time in the latter part of the first period, but sophomore goalie Otto Bohan and the Cardinals' entire defensive unit were tough to beat. Bohan, who received All-NESCAC First Team laurels this spring, made an extraordinary save on an attempt with a great deal of velocity by senior Garrett Reynolds from the left side with 4:32 remaining. Twenty-three seconds later, freshman Jarrett Bromwell unloaded with a drive from straight on, but Bohan once again stood tall.
- Wesleyan nearly went up 5-0 in the closing minutes of the first, with Stanton causing a turnover in the Cardinals' offensive end. The New Canaan, Conn. native picked up the ball, and after a stick check by Salisbury, Hawthorne gained possession right in front of the net, but his low shot was corralled by sophomore goalie Brandon Warren.
- Junior Zach Pompea put Salisbury on the board with two seconds left, burying a rocket top-shelf from the left attacking side, trimming the deficit to three heading into the second.
- The Sea Gulls kept coming in the second, and rattled off back-to-back goals, as junior Corey Gwin scored on a high-to-low shot with 52 seconds elapsed, and then one minute, 31 seconds later, Gwin struck again on a cross-field feed by sophomore Pierre Armstrong, cutting the Cardinals' lead down to 4-3.
- Bohan came up with a collection of timely saves for the Cardinals to keep the squad in front during a crucial part of the game. The Westlake, Ohio native denied Gwin from the right side with 10:24 remaining. Then, with 4:28 showing on the scoreboard, he robbed sophomore Griffin Moroney from point-blank range right in front of the crease.
- Warren was also strong in between the pipes for Salisbury during the middle of the second frame, as he denied Turpin on a wrap-around bid with 8:35 remaining.
- Stanton, one of the Cardinals' four captains, came up with an important goal, sneaking in from behind the net en route to burying a shot while simultaneously falling down, as the Cardinals developed a 5-3 lead with 3:07 left before halftime.
- The Sea Gulls drew first blood in the second half with a sequence of quick and effective ball movement. Sophomore Josh Melton was the recipient of a pass by Armstrong in the center of the offensive zone, and he brought his squad to within one, 5-4, with 10:12 left in the third.
- The Cardinals ended the third with three straight goals. Ghesquiere started the run with 8:52 left, converting a shot from distance off a strong dodge by Barker.
- Junior Corey Aviles then came flying down the right wing, and found the back of the cage on the move with 7:41 left, pushing the lead back up to three. The Cardinals went up 8-4 with 4:30 remaining with a series of great passing, which resulted in Hawthorne scoring from the left doorstep off a feed by Stanton.
- The Sea Gulls won the final quarter, 2-0, on goals by Moroney with 11:02 left and Pompea with 5:37 remaining, but the Cardinals were able to earn the win with excellent play down the stretch including a critical defensive play by Ben Shively '18 shortly after Salisbury's final goal to help break up their momentum.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Wesleyan held a commanding 40-28 lead in shots and went 16-of-18 on clears while the Sea Gulls went 15-of-20. The Cardinals also stopped all three Salisbury man-up opportunities and forced 15 turnovers while recording 10.
- The faceoffs were even for the most part with Wesleyan holding a slight 9-8 edge on 17 draws.
- Stanton and Hawthorne both scored twice and dished out one assist to lead the Cardinals. Ghesquiere scored twice, Barker added two points on one goal and one assist, and Turpin dished out an assist to round out the top offensive performances for Wesleyan.
- Bohan was terrific between the posts, stopping 11 shots on 17 attempts, while Jake Cresta '18 recorded a game-high three caused turnovers, Shively and Ronan Jacoby '21 each added two, and Stanton caused another. Zach Zavalick '20 led the team with five ground balls.
- Gwin and Pompea each scored twice while Pompea added an assist for a team-high three points. Pierre Armstrong dished out two assists, Josh Melton scored once and registered an assist, and Griffin Moroney scored another for the Sea Gulls.
- Defensively, Salisbury was led by the national Defensive Player of the Year Kyle Tucker with two caused turnovers and Warren saved 11 of 19 shots between the posts.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE:
- The 2018 Wesleyan Cardinals have four players ranked in the top-12 all-time in career points. Stanton concludes his career with 224 career goals, a program-best, and 287 points to rank second all-time. Hawthorne concludes the year with a single-season program record 66 assists and is shattering the all-time assist record with 132 in just three seasons. He is fourth all-time in career points with 220. Additionally, Ghesquiere concludes his career ranked 10th in program history with 164 points on 135 goals and 29 assists, and Barker currently ranks 12th all-time with 151 on 69 goals and 82 assists.
- The Cardinals played in front of 21,198 fans on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
- The men's lacrosse program is just the second team in the history of the University to play in the national championship, joining the 1994 Wesleyan baseball team who finished as runner-up.
- Wesleyan's 2018 class, which is bringing home a national title the same day as the University's commencement, will finish with an incredible overall record of 58-17 (.773) and a 30-10 (.750) NESCAC mark. The Cardinals are also 39-5 overall and 18-2 in league play the last two seasons.
- The Cardinals had an incredibly difficult road to the championship game and defeated the top-3 ranked teams in the country in a span of just 11 days. The NCAA tournament run featured victories over Cortland, No. 8 Cabrini, No. 2 Tufts, No. 1 RIT and No. 3 Salisbury.
PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES:
- Head Coach John Raba: "As a coach, you couldn't be more proud of a group (senior class). We've asked them to do a lot. We've dealt with a lot of adversity throughout the year. I think our guys handled it very well. I think we did a great job of dealing with back-to-back games, like with our NESCAC stuff, Saturday, Sunday, and then it was a grind, right in a row, murderer's row, Cortland, Cabrini, Tufts, RIT, some great teams. So the thing is, we had a lot of confidence with our conference play, and being battle tested on the road through the NCAA's.
- "It showed today when we came out. It wasn't too big of a stage, and I think that was the biggest concern for a lot of people. We came out and we played Wesleyan lacrosse. That's what we talked about. The intensity was there, the focus was there, and as a coach, you hope you get to this moment and you can handle it. I think our veteran group is really what led us to this moment."
- Senior Harry Stanton: "We say it all the time, we're living the dream right now. It's really cool to be able to capture the dream.
- "It's an unbelievable experience, and we're so glad we were able to get this done for all the people that came before us and kind of set the precedent for all the players to come next."
- Senior Eric Meyreles: "I think by looking at the stands tonight, you could tell the difference in the number of fans that could come out and support us. There were a lot of people that had our backs throughout the entire ride. They were pumped for us to get here. It means a lot, not just to our team, but the people that came before us. It was awesome."
- Senior Andres Rodriguez: "We love playing out-of-conference teams, and a lot of our season was taken up by NESCAC. Last year we played mostly NESCAC teams up until the semifinals. This season, we finally had the chance to play some different teams and show the south, as well as the north, that we had what it takes. So we were pretty excited to just be out there and play against these guys.