College lacrosse: Hobart upsets Saint Joseph's to win NEC championship
PHILADELPHIA —Hobart is headed back to the NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship. Led by Northeast Conference Tournament MVP Jackson Brown, the Statesmen upset top-seeded Saint Joseph's, 11-7, to earn the conference's automatic bid.
Hobart improved to 10-6 overall, the program's first 10-win season since joining Division I in 1995. The Statesmen will make their fifth NCAA Division I tournament appearance and first since 2004. The NCAA selection show is scheduled to air on ESPNU on Sunday, May 8 at 9 p.m. Including Division II and Division III tournament appearances, Hobart will be making its 26th NCAA postseason.
Hobart controlled the faceoff X against the NEC leader, winning 13-of-21, and dominated ground balls. The Statesmen had a 10-3 advantage on GBs at the half and finished the game with a 23-13 edge. Sophomore J. Andrew Spallanzani was 13-of-20 at the X with two ground balls. Stefaniak and sophomore long-stick midfielder Christopher Willman helped with strong wing play, grabbing four and three ground balls, respectively.
Blewitt opened the second half scoring to make it a one-goal game, but senior Cooper Stefaniak and first-year Bryan Hancock scored three minutes apart to put Hobart back in front by three. The teams traded goals before the end of the quarter, leaving the Statesmen 15 minutes to defend a 9-6 lead.Assisted by junior Sean Donnelly, junior Mark Darden scored a man-up goal less than six minutes into the game to give the Statesmen a lead they never relinquished. Junior Frank Brown and first-year Chris Aslanian netted goals less than a minute apart to stake the visitor's to a 3-0 lead. SJU (12-4) got on the board late in the opening frame, but Donnelly got the goal back for a 4-1 Hobart lead after 15 minutes.
Junior Max Romm scored to start the second quarter and give the Statesmen a four-goal advantage, but the Hawks got back-to-back tallies from Chris Blewitt and NEC Player of the Year Mike Rastivo to make it 5-3. It was the latter's only point of the day. Each team scored once more before the break, giving Hobart a 6-4 lead.
Kyle Cain scored unassisted about four minutes in to give SJU hope, but Hancock closed the door with a man-up goal at the 9:38 mark and nailed it shut with less than four minutes to go on an unassisted empty-net goal from midfield. Jackson Brown was at his best in the fourth quarter, stopping six of the seven shots the Hawks put on goal.
Jackson Brown and the Hobart defense stared down the NEC's top scoring offense (9th in the nation in goals per game), limiting them to a season-low matching seven goals. Jackson Brown finished the game with 13 saves, one off his season-high. He was joined on the NEC All-Tournament Team by junior close defenseman Grant Soucy.
Donnelly had a game-high four points on two goals and two assists. Hancock notched his second hat trick of the season and Aslanian chipped in a goal and two assists. Frank Brown (1g,1a) and Stefaniak (2g) added two points apiece. Brown and Stefaniak also garnered All-Tournament honors.