Unforgettable 2017 ends for Pioneers men’s lacrosse in second round of NCAA Tournament debut

The Pioneers fell 23-8 to Hampden-Sydney Wednesday in the first NCAA Tournament game in the five-year history of the program
The Pioneers fell 23-8 to Hampden-Sydney Wednesday in the first NCAA Tournament game in the five-year history of the program

Farmville, Va. – A groundbreaking season for the Transylvania men's lacrosse team came to an end Wednesday afternoon against the Hampden-Sydney College Tigers with a 23-8 defeat in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Fulton Field.

The Transylvania Pioneers, champions of the Ohio River Men's Lacrosse Conference for the third year straight, made their NCAA Tournament debut in their fifth year of existence for the first time in 2017. Playing in their first NCAA Tournament game Wednesday, the Pioneers witnessed the power and might that Old Dominion Athletic Conference tournament champion Hampden-Sydney had to offer.

Playing in their first NCAA Tournament game since 2003, the Tigers wiped the dust off of their long wait right from the start. After winning the face-off the Tigers raced down the middle of the field and scored on goal to grab an instant 1-0 lead. Hampden-Sydney would go on to score twice more within the first 90 seconds of the game to stun Transylvania in its first run to the dance.

Settling in to their inaugural NCAA duel, the Pioneers remained calm and hungry under pressure, and found its usual scoring touch midway through the first quarter when the Pioneers carried the ball downfield with force and freshman attacker Trenton Sneed struck and scored for the Pioneers' first NCAA Tournament goal. Sneed's connection came at the 9:20 mark of the first quarter to cut Hampden-Sydney's advantage to 3-1.

But the Tigers continued their relentless battle for possession, as they would win 30 of 34 face-offs on the day. Following Sneed's score, the Tigers resumed their pattern of taking the ball downfield with regularity to score four more times in the quarter.

Taking a 7-1 lead into the second quarter, the Tigers continued their heavy assault on the net, scoring three consecutive goals to start the quarter for a crucial 10-1 lead. Senior attacker David Smith stopped the Hampden-Sydney wave with a timely score at the 9:11 mark of the second quarter on a well-placed left side shot.

Smith's score catalyzed the finest stretch of the game for the Pioneers as Transylvania scored four straight times to cut Hampden-Sydney's lead to 10-5. Goals from sophomore attacker Josh Mesmer, freshman midfielder Paul Stickel, and senior attacker Zach Roby contributed to a 4-0 run over a four-minute stretch.

The Tigers had the final word to end the half with two goals to rebuild their lead to 12-5 heading into halftime.

In the third quarter, Hampden-Sydney put the game out of reach, outscoring Transylvania 7-1 in the quarter to assert a 19-6 advantage. The Pioneers battled valiantly all the way to the end, with freshman midfielder Jack Stevenson scoring the seventh goal of the game, and sophomore attacker Ryan Staley scoring with five seconds remaining to end the game on a positive note for the Pioneers.

Mesmer led the Pioneers with two goals on the day, and three total points. Senior goalkeeper Cooper Fogle completed an outstanding career at Transylvania with 12 saves on the afternoon as the Tigers continued to wage a heavy attack on the net.

Transylvania won the battle of turnovers, committing 14 to 20 by Hampden-Sydney. The Tigers were 17-for-20 on clears while the Pioneers cleared 80 percent of their attempts on Wednesday.

The Pioneers conclude their season with an overall record of 13-4, including a 7-0 regular season record in conference play, and their third straight ORLC regular season and tournament championship.

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