BOSTON, Mass. – The Emmanuel College men's lacrosse team put together its second consecutive championship campaign in just its fourth year as a varsity program, wrapping the 2015 season with a 13-5 overall recording including an 8-0 mark in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference. The Saints captured the program's second GNAC Championship to earn an NCAA Tournament berth before falling to the eventual national champion, Tufts, for the second straight season in the opening round.
The 2015 season kicked off with an impressive 13-12 win over Gordon College in which the Saints erased an early three goal deficit to open the year with a "W" for the first time since 2013.
Over the next three weeks in what could be called the toughest scheduling stretch in the program's short history, the Saints battled five quality opponents only to come out with one win. EC dropped decisions to Plymouth State, MIT, Alfred and Colby College but managed to earn a 14-7 victory over Hilbert College during the annual spring break trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
On March 21, the Saints decided to turn things around and opened up an 11-game winning streak with an impressive 13-5 victory over Mount Ida College in EC's Great Northeast Athletic Conference opener. Neither squad knew it at the time but they would meet again in the GNAC Championship just over a month later and the result was almost identical.
Emmanuel closed out the month of March with a pair of quality wins against Lasell and Norwich to take command of the top spot in the GNAC. The Saints stormed past the Lasers with a 14-7 win before downing the Cadets 8-4 in a defensive showdown.
April proved to be another impressive month for the program as the Saints ran the table for the second consecutive year, going 8-0 during the action. They opened the month with a 10-5 win over a much improved Johnson & Wales program before downing neighboring Wentworth Institute of Technology in a friendly Fenway showdown.
On April 8, Rivier University came into Boston featuring one of the most potent offensive units in the nation, averaging just fewer than 14 goals a game. The Saint made sure to change that, holding the Raiders to a season-low four goals in a 13-4 win to stay atop the GNAC standings.
On April 11, senior goalie Justin Byers (Indianapolis, Ind.) made his first collegiate start and earned the win in a 20-9 final, finishing with seven saves. EC followed it up with a 12-4 win over Saint Joseph's College (ME) to clinch a first round bye in the GNAC playoffs before locking in the No. 1 seed with an 18-7 victory over Anna Maria College in the regular season finale.
With the first round bye, the Saints were able to sit and wait the opponent in a matchup between No. 4 Lasell vs. No. 5 Rivier match up. Lasell cruised to a 21-8 win and earned the GNAC Semifinal berth with the Saints, marking the first playoff meeting between the two programs. The Lasers took a 3-2 lead into halftime before the Saints exploded for four third quarter goals to take control of the action en route to a 9-6 win. Senior Jake Jaskolski (Saint Claire Shores, Mich.) came up huge with three goals as did senior middie Jake Pickett (Stratham, N.H.) who scored twice and controlled the faceoff action all game long.
The No. 1 Saints earned a repeat trip to the finals and played host to No. 2 Mount Ida College who squeaked by No. 6 Norwich in the Semis with a 6-5 win. It was all Emmanuel in the finals as the Saints busted out of the gates scoring the game's first eight goals to set the tone and never look back. Emmanuel led 13-2 heading into the final quarter and four goals by the Mustangs show their fight until the end but it was the Saints hoisting the 2015 GNAC Championship following the 13-6 win. Junior middie Chris Curtis (Ashland, Mass.) scored a game-high three goals while senior goalie Austin Lauzier (Bedford, N.H.) made 14 saves to earn his 13th win of the year.
For the second straight year, the Saints cleaned up in the GNAC All-Conference honors as Curtis took home First Team and Offensive Player of the Year honors while junior Pat Heffernan (Pembroke, Mass.) was named the GNAC Defensive Player of the Year as well as a First Team selection. Joining them on the first team was sophomore attack Tony Cibelli (Westboro, Mass.).
The Saints landed five on the GNAC Second Team including sophomore defender Brendan Gallagher (Solon, Ohio), junior middie Michael Rogers (New Haven, Conn.), junior long-stick middie Nick DelMonaco (Billerica, Mass.), Pickett and Lauzier.
The Men's Lacrosse historic season wrapped up on May 6 following their second NCAA tournament appearance against Tuft University. Emmanuel gave the Jumbos all they could handle and trailed just 2-1 after the first quarter before Tufts pulled away for a 21-6 victory and would go on to win their second straight National Championship.
Coach McWilliams and the Saint bid farewell to their largest senior class in program history, losing 11 to graduation. The class of 2015 was the first four-year letter winners for Men's Lacrosse at Emmanuel, captured two GNAC Championships and posted an overall record of 42-28.