Lexington, Ky. – For the first time in its five-year program history, the Transylvania men's lacrosse team is headed to the NCAA Tournament.
Using a quintessential performance borne out of their typical patience, precision, and steadfast defense, the Pioneers defeated the Saint Vincent College Bearcats, 12-1 in the Ohio River Men's Lacrosse Conference Championship game Saturday afternoon at Pat Deacon Stadium.
The victory marked the third straight conference tournament title for the Pioneers, to go with their third consecutive regular-season title.
With the ORLC awarding an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in its three-year existence, the Pioneers clinched their first berth into NCAA Tournament play with the historic win on Saturday.
"I'm pretty proud of these young men," said Transylvania men's lacrosse head coach Terry Justice. "I told them when I recruited them that we were going to be in the Division III playoffs; I don't know if they believed me or not, but sure enough, here they are four years later. They've had a heck of a journey and it's been fun to watch them grow into fine young men."
The Pioneers picked up their 13th win of the season as their overall record moved to 13-3, continuing their program-record 12-game winning streak.
Transylvania completed an undefeated run through the ORLC, comprising an 8-0 season against ORLC competition in regular season play, and two more wins against conference foes in this week's conference tournament.
Saturday's game was the second victory of the season for the Pioneers over St. Vincent, who last faced off with Transylvania on March 18 in a 13-7 game that went to the Pios.
The championship rematch was a lower-scoring game that saw the best of both defenses in the first half. Transylvania discovered its offense late as it outscored the Bearcats 8-0 in the second half, and held St. Vincent scoreless over the final 48-plus minutes of the contest.
Senior goalie Cooper Fogle claimed his 13th victory of the season. The veteran netminder posted 10 scintillating saves as he and a group of seven other seniors led the way to the Pioneers' first NCAA Tournament berth. "Cooper Fogle was phenomenal today, and along with our defense, has been so steady all year long," added Justice.
Fellow senior, midfielder Zack Riggs, achieved a hat-trick and an assist in a complete performance by the Pioneers.
The first 15 minutes entailed the best defenses both teams had to offer, while the Bearcats scored the lone goal of the first quarter to carry a 1-0 lead into the second quarter. The Pioneers finally broke through at the 11:01 mark of the second quarter when sophomore attacker Nick Bailey spun and took aim on a right-side shot to tie the game at 1-1.
Bailey's goal ignited a run for the Pioneers as Transylvania scored three more times in the quarter to take a 4-1 lead to the halftime break.
The third quarter featured more of the defensive excellence that occurred in the first quarter as a goal from senior attacker Clark Watts was the lone score.
The Pioneers quickly put the game out of reach in the start of the fourth quarter when freshman attacker Trenton Sneed scored Transy's sixth goal in the first half-minute of the quarter, and freshman midfielder T.J. Toivonen scored the seventh three minutes later.
Transylvania scored five more times in the fourth quarter to sign off on a seismic finish through the ORLC season and advance into the NCAA Tournament.
The one goal allowed matches Transylvania's effort for fewest goals allowed this season on April 22 in a 20-1 win at Bethany.
Transylvania was 22-for-25 on clears, and outgained St. Vincent 32-29 in ground balls.
The Pioneers will find out their first-round assignment, opponent, and location during the NCAA Division III Men's Lacrosse Tournament Selection Show, scheduled for 9:00 p.m. eastern time Sunday evening.
Until then, Transylvania will take time to savor the efforts of its third-consecutive ORLC tournament title.
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