PAINESVILLE, OHIO – The Lake Erie College men's lacrosse team didn't have long to dwell on their loss in the championship game of the Eastern College Athletic Conference Tournament earlier in the day Sunday (May 5). That's because Sunday evening the 10th-ranked Storm was announced as having received one of eight spots in the 2013 NCAA Division II Men's Lacrosse Championship tournament.
It is Lake Erie's first appearance in the national tournament. The Storm's first season of lacrosse was 2010.
"We're very excited for the opportunity to compete in the national tournament, it's such a big deal for us as just a fourth-year program," said head coach Greg Stocks. "Our guys have put in a lot of time, effort and worked really hard to get to this point and it's great to have the opportunity to play for a national title."
The Storm (12-4) earned the fourth seed in the South Region and will get another crack at the number-one team in the country, Mercyhurst University. The Lakers (16-0) have defeated the Storm twice this season, including a 13-7 win Sunday in the ECAC Tournament championship game.
First round tournament games are scheduled for Saturday, May 11, on campus sites. Mercyhurst will host the Storm at a time to be announced.
Following an 11-3 record during the regular season, Lake Erie entered the postseason ranked fifth regionally. However, the Storm's 12-10 upset over eighth-ranked Seton Hill University in the ECAC semifinals Friday (May 3) and reaching the conference tournament final was enough to push them past Pfeiffer University in the eyes of the NCAA selection committee. Seton Hill earned the third seed in the South Region and will play at second-seed Limestone College.
"I told our guys that if we played well this weekend, we'd at least make it a very difficult choice for the selection committee," Stocks said. "We're disappointed that we weren't able to pick up the win today, but we are excited to have another shot at Mercyhurst. We know how good they are and we are looking forward to the challenge ahead."
Just a few weeks ago, on April 16, Lake Erie gave the top-ranked Lakers all they could handle at home. Mercyhurst's Michael Grace needed to make two saves in the final seconds to allow the Lakers to escape with a 13-12 win.
The Storm ranked second nationally in scoring offense during the season, putting up 15.5 goals per game. ECAC Offensive Player of the Year Keegan Bal (Coquitlam, B.C./Centennial Secondary) and his 80 total points (46 goals, 34 assists) makes the offense go while junior Trevor Tarte (Amherstburg, Ont./Kiski Prep), an All-ECAC second-team selection, led the country with 60 goals.
The biggest improvement for Lake Erie came on the defensive end, where the Storm ranked sixth nationally in scoring defense (7.14), up from 28th the previous season. Sophomore Justin Goodwin (New Westminster, B.C./New Westminster Secondary), an All-ECAC first-team and All-Tournament Team defenseman, and freshman goalkeeper Tom Lipomi (Hamburg, N.Y./Hamburg) led a group that made huge strides this year under first-year assistant coach Steve Gartelman.
"Steve does a tremendous job orchestrating our defense and getting the guys to buy in to what we want to do on the backend," said Stocks. "His work with our young guys made a big difference this year."
While the Storm is making its first appearance on the national stage, Mercyhurst has qualified for the NCAA Championship for the eighth time. The Lakers won the national title in 2011.
This is the first season the NCAA has expanded the Division II field to eight teams. It had been a four-team event since 2001.