MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.– The men’s lacrosse team at the University of Minnesota will be heading off to the MCLA Division I tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah this weekend. This ends a 14–year drought to the national tournament, the second longest gap between national tournament appearances in MCLA history (New Hampshire ended a 17–year gap this year, beating Utah’s record of 12 years). Minnesota (14-6), seeded at No. 15, will face-off against No. 2 Chapman (15-2) in the first round on Monday, May 6 at 4:30 PM MDT (5:30 PM CDT).
Minnesota’s ticket to nationals came with the UMLC automatic qualifier after the Maroon and Gold won the UMLC Championship this past weekend in Crown Point, Ind. The Maroon and Gold breezed past Illinois in the first round of the UMLC tournament before taking down Indiana in the semifinals, who was voted the favorite to win the conference in the preseason polls. Minnesota then faced off against Purdue, the No. 1 seed in the UMLC East, in the championship game, taking the Boilermakers down to claim their first conference title since 2005.
This first round matchup will be a rematch from this past spring, where a game of runs ended with Chapman claiming a 15-12 victory. Since their last meeting, Chapman has taken down every opponent going 9-0 including a comeback win against a firing hot Arizona State to claim the SLC Championship. Offensively, they are led by attackmen Wiley Bonham (50 goals, 19 assists), Nick Lemus (41 goals, 26 assists), and midfielder Ethan Smith (30 goals, 20 assists), who were named First Team All-SLC. Bonham was also named SLC Offensive Player of the Year. In addition, the Panthers have three players who are averaging over 3 points per game, and two players averaging 1 point per game. Defensively, they are led by defensive midfielder Jack McKeon, defensemen Kyle Souza, Anderson Hill, and goaltender Daniel Aguilar who received All-SLC honors.
The Maroon and Gold will need to find a way to limit the Panther offense that has averaged 16.33 goals scored per game in their last 9 games and that will start at the faceoff X. Minnesota has struggled throughout the season at the X, averaging a .446 win percentage at the faceoff. Chapman’s Parker Halaburda is 261 for 368 on the season (.709) at the faceoff X and has established himself as one of the top faceoff specialists in the country. In their meeting in March, Halaburda was 15 for 17. Minnesota will need to find a solution to neutralize Halaburda in order to pull off the first round upset.
Minnesota is led offensively by Amar Batra, Malik Ekpenyong, and Joe Poferl. Batra is currently second in the nation in points with 111 (62 goals, 49 assists). Ekpenyong is ranked 5th among the nation’s midfielders in goals scored with 36. The big-bodied Poferl meanwhile is one of the top goal scorers coming from the UMLC with 42 goals.
Defensively, the Maroon and Gold is led by Clay Diedrich and Mitch Grengs. Diedrich, has re-established himself as a staple in Minnesota’s defense. The senior started the season on the top midfield line before moving back to defense midway through Minnesota’s game against Minn-Duluth. Since then, he has accumulated 65 groundballs and caused 22 turnovers, while also contributing 2 goals and 2 assists. Grengs has also been a force on defense, collecting 72 groundballs and leads the team with 34 caused turnovers.
Minnesota’s Goalie Carousel
Minnesota has had four goalies start throughout the year. Aaron Peterson started off 3-1 before suffering a torn acl that ended his senior campaign. Freshman Micah Schultz and Jacob Rosenow then split time before Rosenow suffered a season-ending upper body injury last month. Rosenow finished his freshman season with a 2-2 record. Schultz meanwhile has made appearances in 12 games with 8 starts and holds a 6-2 record. With Rosenow out for the season, Minnesota added Jack Courington to the official roster. Courington’s first collegiate action was against Liberty, a rough first game for the freshman who faced a high powered offense from the Flames, making only 7 saves for a .333 save percentage. However, since then he has risen and established himself as Minnesota’s starting goaltender.
In second-half action against Illinois last weekend at the UMLC tournament, Courington made 10 saves for a .833 save percentage. The following day, he got the start against Indiana and played the entire game, making 14 saves while allowing 5 goals against (.733). In the UMLC championship game against Purdue, Courington made 5 stops while allowing 2 goals in his split with Schultz.
Heading into their first round matchup against Chapman, Courington is expected to get the start.
Livestream for Minnesota’s first round matchup against Chapman can be found through the following link:
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