Lacrosse clinches MAAC Tournament berth despite loss

By Canio Marasco III

Sports Reporter

The Canisius men’s lacrosse team clinched a spot in the MAAC tournament despite dropping their penultimate regular season game to the Monmouth Hawks.

The Griffs entered the game against the Hawks with a chance to take first place and ensure their spot in the MAAC tournament. The Hawks came out strong with their top offensive threat, junior attacker Bryce Wasserman, scoring four of Monmouth’s five first quarter goals. The Griffs were able to add two goals in the first quarter, trying to keep pace with the Hawks’ offense.

In the second frame, the Griffs’ defense solidified, finding a way to hold Wasserman and the Hawks’ offense to zero goals. The Griffs cut Monmouth’s lead to one, as junior Connor Kearnan paced the Griffs’ offense, picking up two assists.

Monmouth pulled away in the second half as small mistakes piled up for the Griffs. Sophomore Eamon Campbell scored for the Hawks early into the third frame. The Griffs responded with a goal of their own before the Hawks took control of the game. Wasserman and Campbell added two more goals in the third quarter to push the Hawks lead to 8-5. Senior Lewis Vaccaro narrowed the Hawks lead to two early in the final frame. However, the first-place Hawks added three unanswered goals as they coasted to an 11-6 win, claiming the regular season title.

“I think we did a lot of good things,” Canisius head coach Randy Mearns said. “We had to get used to Wasserman – he scored four of their first five goals. That put us in a hole. But, then we figured it out defensively and we shut them out in the second quarter. We got back in the game and had some opportunities…we just had a couple mental breakdowns. It’s the little things, all the little fundamental things, that just cost you at this time of the year.”

Although the loss was defeating in both senses, Coach Mearns added that the team didn’t feel as though all their aspirations were moot because they couldn’t beat the Hawks. He said that at no point in the game did the team feel they couldn’t compete with the Hawks in a potential future matchup.

Despite their chances the chances of hosting the MAAC Tournament evaporating, the Griffs did lock a place in the next weekend’s tournament. As of this edition the Griffs are the No. 3 seed, but could change to either a No. 2 or 4 seed, also. The Griffs still have one conference game remaining against the Quinnipiac Bobcats today (Friday) at 4 p.m.

“We got the news after the fact that we were in the conference championship,” Coach Mearns said. “So, that’s good. As much as the bus ride home was a little bit of a downer because we wanted to win and move into first place, we were able to rest a little easier being able to check off one of our goals, which was to get to the conference championship.”

As it stands, the Marist Red Foxes sit one spot ahead of the Griffs with the same 3-2 record due to tiebreakers. The Griffs are one spot ahead of the Siena Saints, who also have a 3-2 MAAC record. The Saints and Red Foxes close out their conferences schedules with a meeting at Marist on Saturday.

The Griffs last game against the Bobcats certainly has a lot of meaning. The importance of the game goes beyond playoff seeding however. The Griffs are currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak. Their last game against the Bobcats presents a stage for a final tune-up before the MAAC Tournament.

“We just need to take care of the little things,” said Coach Mearns. “For example, in the third quarter, when the game was on the line, we had three failed clears against Monmouth. We’re at this stage of the year and the repetition of practicing and going over the clear – in my mind – there’s no excuse.

“We need to fix the small things and we just need to continue to evolve our defense and our offense. You know how to do it, you just need to do it all the time.”

Above all, Coach Mearns said that he wants to see consistency. He said that at this point in the season there is simply no reason for mental lapses.

Although the Griffs could bolster their seed in the MAAC Tournament, the team is more focused on consistency. That shouldn’t overshadow the fact that a win against the Bobcats would help the Griffs confidence heading into the tournament. The Bobcats are 1-4 in the MAAC this season, presenting the Griffs with a great opportunity to pick up win. As Coach Mearns stated, this game offers the Griffs a chance to end of a positive note.

“I think the Quinnipiac game is huge for preparation. I think it can get us back in the winning way. We need to feel success. It gives us another opportunity to fine tune what we’re doing. If we do all the little things, everything else will take care of itself. We’re on a three-game skid, so we just tell the guys, there’s a lot of light at the end of the tunnel though it feels a little bad because we haven’t had success recently. We’re in the conference championship…we still have a chance at the NCAA Tournament.’”

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