GREENVILLE, S.C. – With his team-high two goals, midfielder Joe Palermo led the St. Thomas men’s club lacrosse team to its third straight D-II MCLA national title in a 9-7 victory over Westminster (Va.) Saturday at Sirrine Stadium.
With the win, the Tommies capped off a perfect season (18-0) en route to the team’s fourth title in five years. Palermo was named the championship game’s Most Valuable Player.
“It’s an unexplainable feeling. We all have worked so hard this year to reach our ultimate goal of another national title,” Palermo said. “Getting MVP is just the cherry on top.”
Attacker Peter Carbonneau said the win was an “unreal feeling.”
“Coming out on top makes all of those nights missed out with friends due to late practices more than worth it,” Carbonneau said. “I love all these guys and wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Coach Peter Moosbrugger said the team set its sights high early on in the season.
“(It) feels phenomenal,” Moosbrugger said. “We set our goals at the beginning of the season with our sights on first winning a conference championship, and then from there winning a national championship.”
St. Thomas answered the Griffins’ early goal, opening the scoring with a tally from attacker David Burke midway through the first quarter. The Tommies looked to get their offense rolling, but the Griffins maintained possession of the ball for the majority of the quarter. St. Thomas and Westminster were tied 1-1 heading into the second quarter.
Carbonneau scored a backhanded goal early in the second quarter, giving the Tommies their first lead of the game. Carbonneau was selected to the MCLA DII First Team All-Tournament team, along with midfielder Matt Kleven, after the victory.
The Tommies scored three more goals in the quarter, capped by midfielder John-Michael Coon’s bullet that gave the Tommies a 5-1 lead halfway through the second quarter.
St. Thomas led 5-3 heading into halftime and outshot Westminster 17-15 in the first half.
Plagued with penalties throughout the third quarter, the Tommies saw their lead diminish as the Griffins scored on a power-play, knotting the score at five with six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Burke and Palermo combined for two goals in six seconds to give the Tommies a cushion and much needed push during the winding minutes of an aggressive third quarter.
Palermo added his second goal of the game midway through the fourth quarter to give St. Thomas an 8-6 lead. The Griffins cut the Tommie’s lead to one just minutes later, but Kleven put the game out of reach, burying St. Thomas’ ninth and final goal with five minutes remaining.
The Tommies rode out strong play in the cage from goaltender Steven Bang and a tough defensive effort in the final minutes to secure the championship title.
Carbonneau said the team’s camaraderie, in part, led to its success.
“I’m going to miss the guys. The fact that all 40 of them would do anything for me and always have my back, it’s pretty special to be part of something like that,” Carbonneau said.
With the title under its belt, Moosbrugger said the team will savor the victory and look ahead to next season with high hopes.
“We are going to enjoy this summer as champions and then get ready to start the next chapter come fall,” Moosbrugger said.
Andrew Stafford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.