Dec. 3, 2008

Courtesy of NYIT Athletics

Foxborough, Mass. – Junior Keith Henderson (Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.) scored a game-high five goals and was named Most Outstanding Player as the NYIT Bears captured the 2008 NCAA Division II Men’s Lacrosse National Championship with a 16-11 victory over Le Moyne May 25. Playing in front of a record crowd of 24, 317 at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots, the Bears rebounded from a 5-2 deficit at the end of the first quarter to win their fourth national championship and their first since the 2005 season.

“I want to congratulate Le Moyne, not only for a wonderful season, but for the tremendous success they have had over the last four years, winning three national champions,” said head coach Jack Kaley. “We knew coming into this game, that to beat a team of this quality, that is so well coached, we were going to have to be at our best. I couldn’t be prouder of our student-athletes, who believed in themselves and executed our game plan to perfection. Our guys were focused from the moment we left campus and it showed, because I believe we played our best game of the season today. What a feeling this is to win our fourth national championship in front of another record crowd and another great venue in Gillette Stadium.”

Neither team could find an offensive rhythm in the early going and it took more than six minutes for the first goal of the game. That goal, out of the stick of Le Moyne’s Brian Welsh, deflected off of NYIT defenseman, sophomore Christian Scuderi (West Islip, N.Y.), to give the Dolphin’s a 1-0 lead. Junior Matt Messina (Sayville, N.Y.) answered for NYIT, beating his defender and scoring unassisted one minute later to tie the score at 1-1.
Le Moyne took control of the game for the remainder of the first quarter, scoring three in a row at one point, and four of the last five goals to build a 5-2 lead. The Bears lone goal during that span was Henderson’s first of the game. That goal came on a broken playing during a man-up opportunity as Henderson scooped up a loose ball in front of the net and fired it past Le Moyne goalie Doug Mclver. Le Moyne out-shot NYIT 14-6 and held the Bears to just one man-up goal in four opportunities in the first 15 minutes of action.

Trailing 5-2, the Bears opened the second quarter with back-to-back goals just :47 seconds apart, squarely switching the momentum into NYIT’s favor. Sophomore Austin Carino (Huntington, N.Y.) scored off of a feed from Messina just :13 seconds in and Henderson followed with his second of the game :37 seconds later to make the score 5-4. Le Moyne scored two of the next three goals, sandwiching scores around NYIT sophomore Matt Sullivan’s (West Islip, N.Y.) unassisted goal with 11:48 showing on the clock. But Mike McDonald’s goal at the 10:53 mark, which gave the Dolphins a 7-5 lead, would be the last of the quarter for Le Moyne. NYIT’s defense clamped down and stymied the Dolphins high-powered offense, holding Le Moyne scoreless the rest of the way. Meanwhile the Bears offense continued to pressure the Dolphins and NYIT scored the last four goals of the half. Carino grabbed a rebound off of Messina miss and netted his second of the game from right in front of the net to tie the game at 7-7. The Bears delivered a crushing blow, erupting for two goals in the final :15 seconds of the half. Freshman Ryan Amengual’s (West Babylon, N.Y.) diving goal from behind the cage with :15 seconds to play ignited the record crowd. Senior Jared Garcia (Bethpage, N.Y.) won the ensuing face-off and found senior Paul Flowers (London, England) alone in front of the net just eight seconds later. Flower’s goal sent the Bears into halftime with a 9-7 lead.

Henderson continued the Bears offensive charge, scoring just :34 seconds into the third quarter for his fourth goal of the game. By the time Le Moyne’s Tom Donahue scored at the 8:37 mark, the Bears defense had held Le Moyne scoreless for over 17 minutes while scoring five unanswered goals. Le Moyne cut the Bears lead to just one goal twice in the third quarter, but each time the Bears answered. Alex Billy followed Donahue’s goal to make it a 10-9 game with 6:33 remaining, but Messina netted his second of the game less than a minute later. McDonald brought Le Moyne to within 11-10 with his second goal of the game at the 3:49 mark, but Henderson closed out the third quarter scoring with his fifth of the game with just :49 seconds left to push the Bears lead back up to 12-10.

Le Moyne would cut the Bears lead to 12-11 on Alex Billy’s goal one minute into the fourth quarter, but the Bears stopped any hope of a Le Moyne comeback, closing out the game with four unanswered goals. Messina found a cutting Carino in-front of the net for a man-up goal with 8:48 left to play and Amengual made another impressive move from behind the cage, beating his defender and scoring unassisted to give NYIT a 14-11 lead with just over seven minutes left to play. The Bears defense limited Le Moyne’s scoring opportunities and when they did get a good shot off, junior Chris Powers (Salt Lake City, Utah) was there to make the save. Powers registered seven saves in the second half. Amengual gave the Bears some breathing room with his third of the game at the 1:46 mark and Flowers provided the final score, netting his second of the day with five seconds remaining.

Messina finished the game with two goals and a game-high three assists, and Carino and Amengual each added three goals in the victory. Powers, who set the tone early in net for the Bears with some big saves, stopped 11 of the Dolphins shots.

"Our student-athletes are wonderful ambassadors for NYIT, and today’s victory is a testament to the quality and dedication of the players, Coach Kaley, and his staff,” said NYIT President Edward Guiliano. “The Le Moyne program is equally outstanding, and we were fortunate to once again win the Division II national championship, a source of pride for all of us at NYIT.”

Before the championship game, the Dolphins had not allowed more than seven goals in a game all season. NYIT’s man-up offense was stellar against the top defensive team in the country, scoring on four of their six opportunities. NYIT took advantage of Le Moyne’s defense in one-one situations as 11 of the Bears 16 goals were unassisted. The Bears dominated the groundballs, grabbing 39 to Le Moyne's 25. Henderson finished the season with 62 goals, just one shy of the all-time single season record of 63 set by Rob Grella in 1993.