The St. Thomas club lacrosse team, led by attackman Danny Burke’s two goals and attackman Sean Hickey’s three points, defeated conference rival North Dakota State University 8-6 in the quarterfinals of the MCLA D-II national tournament Tuesday afternoon in Orange, California.
After beating the Reinhardt Eagles 13-6 in the opening round of the national tournament, the Tommies (8-4, 2-2 UMLC) edged out the Bison (8-4, 3-1 UMLC) in their third meeting of the season. The Tommies lost to the Bison 12-9 in the regular season and beat them 14-8 in the UMLC playoffs. After the first half of play, both teams were knotted at two. St. Thomas made a late push to outscore North Dakota State 6-4 in the second half and advance to the Final Four.
“They’re a great program, and the things they’ve done over the last few years have made our conference better,” coach Peter Moosbrugger said. “It’s really great for our conference to have St. Thomas, St. John’s and NDSU as basically three of the top six teams in the nation.”
Moosbrugger said he was impressed with the way his team played considering the familarity between the two teams.
“This is a huge win for us because it’s an in-conference opponent that knows everything about us,” Moosbrugger said. “We knew it was going to be a battle; we talked about it last night that it was going to take four quarters grinding, hard-work lacrosse, but in the end we’re the veteran team. We had to play like veterans.”
The Tommie defense was key to the team’s victory. In only four other games this season the Tommies held their opponent to six goals or less, one of which was yesterday’s game against Reinhardt.
“In my opinion this is the best team defensive game we’ve played all year. Holding them to two goals (in the first half),” Moosbrugger said. “That attack group in my opinion is the best attack tandem in our conference.”
Hickey was once again a huge contributor for St. Thomas, accounting for three points. Hickey attributed today’s win to the depth of this team.
“I think we showed off our depth,” Hickey said. “I think our third line had…four or maybe even five goals. We really came together in the second half. The first half was a struggle for us, but we came out in the second half and played really well together.”
Hickey also attributed some of the first-half struggles, only being tied 2-2, to the playing conditions and the hot California weather.
“Being from Minnesota, it’s obviously a very humid state and very wet conditions in the spring usually,” Hickey said. “So, coming out here it really dries up our sticks and it take a lot of the whip out of them.”
Burke emphasized the importance of team depth. Burke accounted for the sixth and seventh goals for the Tommies in Tuesday’s game.
“Our key to our success was unselfish play. We had three middy lines, which helps out in the heat. So when other teams have shorter benches, we can use our depth to take over,” Burke said. “All the attackmen have had good chemistry the past few months, so it’s been easy.”
The Tommies resume play at 4:15 p.m. Thursday against the winner of Grand Valley State and Western Oregon.
“We are very fortunate right now that we just came away from a huge win. This wasn’t a bad win. This was a great win, a great team win,” Moosbrugger said. “We can look back on it and say, ‘guys this is how we have to play for the next two games.’ So we just need to continue to carry that momentum forward for our next opponent.”
Jordan Kruger can be reached at email@example.com.