BOSTON, Mass. – The Emmanuel College men's lacrosse team put together the greatest season in the program's brief three-year history as a varsity sport, wrapping the 2014 campaign with a 15-4 overall recording including a 10-0 mark in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference. The Saints captured the program's first-ever GNAC Championship to earn an NCAA Tournament berth before falling to the eventual national champion, Tufts.
The 2014 season didn't start exactly how the Saints had hoped but the squad was able to right the ship after a three-game losing skid to open the year. Emmanuel dropped a hard fought battle to Keuka College in their season-opener, 13-12, which was a disappointing loss but an early sign of improvement having lost to the Storm by 14 goals in 2012. Another one goal loss (8-7) to MIT followed by a 13-4 defeat to Kean University down in Myrtle Beach, S.C. forced the team to refocus and that they did, reeling off a program-record 15-game winning streak over an eight-week span.
The streak began with a much-needed 9-6 win over Hilbert College in the final game of the team's spring break trip in South Carolina. Upon returning to New England, EC notched a hard-fought road win, downing Salem State in overtime, 7-6, to get some revenge from a 2012 one-goal overtime loss to the Vikings.
Emmanuel closed out the month of March strong, opening conference play with four consecutive GNAC wins with victories over Albertus Magnus, Rivier, Daniel Webster and Anna Maria, outscoring the four schools 54-14.
The Saints opened April with an 11-4 win over Johnson & Wales in the first-ever meeting between the two programs before a key contest against perennial conference powerhouse, Mount Ida, on April 4. Emmanuel had never beaten the Mustangs coming into the game but in one of their most convincing performances of the year, downed Ida 13-1 behind a three-goal effort from sophomore attack Kaile MacLean-Daley (Moretown, Vt.).
Coming off the huge win and on an emotional high, EC downed Norwich 7-1, knocking off the defending GNAC Champions for the first time in program history.
On April 12, the Saints built up a 6-1 halftime lead to cruise to a 12-6 GNAC win over Becker College before hitting the road for an 8-3 win over Saint Joseph's College (ME) to improve to 9-0 in GNAC action. This set the stage for the regular-season finale against Lasell College who also boasted a 9-0 record in conference action.
The Lasers lead 3-1 after one quarter but Emmanuel was able to tie the game at 4-4 heading into halftime. The squads would trade goals in the third quarter to make it 6-6 heading into the final frame in which freshman attack Donnie Litzelman (Exeter, N.H.) would give EC the lead for good with a score just 40 seconds into the final quarter while freshman middie Tony Cibelli (Westboro, Mass.) netted what would be the eventual game-winner. Junior goalie Austin Lauzier (Bedford, N.H.) made 14 stops in the win to earn EC the #1 seed in the GNAC tourney.
In the GNAC Quarterfinals, Emmanuel cruised past Johnson & Wales, 13-3, behind three goals apiece from Cibelli and MacLean-Daley. In the Semifinals, the Saints built up a 6-0 halftime lead en route to an 11-2 win over Norwich to set up a championship showdown against Becker College who had pulled off the 3/2 upset against Lasell in the other semifinal contest.
In the Final, the Hawks jumped out to a 2-1 lead early in the second quarter but the Saints scored eight unanswered goals including two from Cibelli, MacLean Daley and sophomore middie Chris Curtis (Ashland, Mass.) to propel them to a 9-3 win and first-ever GNAC crown.
Much of the Saints success in 2014 stemmed from a strong defensive unit that ended the year ranked sixth nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 6.22 goals per game. Lauzier anchored the defense in goal while his starting three defensemen were all recognized by the GNAC, earning several honors. Sophomore Pat Heffernan (Pembroke, Mass.) was named the GNAC Defensive Player of the Year as well as a First Team selection. Freshman defensemen Chris Baglivi (Mattituck, N.Y.) was tabbed to the GNAC First Team as well as the GNAC Rookie of the Year while freshman Brendan Gallagher (Solon, Ohio) rounded out the Saints defensive core with First Team All Conference honors.
Junior middie Jake Pickett (Stratham, N.H.) and sophomore middie Nick DelMonaco (Billerica, Mass.) were both named to the GNAC First Team in the specialist spots. Pickett earned the Short Stick Specialist honors as the Saints main face-off man, winning a team-high 158 face-offs on the year to go along with a team-best 94 groundballs. Pickett also registered three points, scoring two goals to go along with an assist including the program's first-ever NCAA tournament tally. DelMonaco earns Long Stick Specialist honors after playing in and starting all 19 games and grabbing 33 groundballs while causing 25 turnovers.
Curtis earned First Team midfield honors after a stellar year for the Saints in which he registered a team-high 45 points to rank ninth overall in the GNAC. Curtis scored 31 goals to share the team lead while ranking ninth in the conference and also dished out 14 assists. The sophomore registered at least two points in 16 of the Saints 19 games and also notched 33 groundballs on the year.
Sophomore middie Michael Rogers (New Haven, Conn.) earns GNAC Second Team honors for the second consecutive season following another strong campaign.
Leading the way was Head Coach Brendan McWilliams who was named the GNAC Coach of the Year. In his third season at the helm, McWilliams took the program to a new level in 2014, leading Emmanuel to the program's first-ever Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship in just their third season of varsity competition. After the Saints dropped their first three games of the year, EC would go on a 15-game winning streak including a 10-0 mark during the regular season in GNAC play in which Emmanuel outscored GNAC opponents by a gaudy 113-36 margin. The 15-game winning streak was also the fourth-longest streak among NCAA Division III Men's Lacrosse programs in 2014.
The Men's Lacrosse historic season wrapped up on May 7 following their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance against Tuft University. The Saints ended the year with a 15-4 overall record which included a 10-0 mark in GNAC play and a 15-game winning streak. EC will lose its lone senior, Brian O'Regan (Milton, Mass.) to graduation but return the rest of the roster in 2015. O'Regan represented the Saints in the New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (NEILA) Senior All-Star Game to cap his collegiate career.