Sunday afternoon the Cabrini Cavaliers (22-2) defeated the Amherst Mammoths (18-4) 16-12 in front of 18,702 fans at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia to capture their first D III National Championship.
Cabrini University sits only 23 miles from Lincoln Financial Field in Radnor Township, so there was no doubt of the fan following that would show on this day.
“Obviously for our guys, it’s an unbelievable opportunity to play on this stage,” said 19-year Cabrini head coach Steve Colfer. “To have an opportunity to compete against some of the best teams in the country and ultimately to come out with a team that is able to hoist the championship is special for our university, it’s special for our athletic department and it’s obviously special for our lacrosse program.”
After a Cabrini shot-clock violation, Amherst worked the ball around and Jackson Herrick rolled off a check to fire his first of the day past Riley White for the 1-0 lead. Jack Norton scored his first of the afternoon from 20 feet away as Amherst would take early control of the game.
Cabrini finally broke through as Bill Morgan took the open lane in front of the crease and went low to cut the lead 2-1. After a couple of big saves by Riley White, Amherst would gain possession and Brogan Mahon beat White high under the crossbar to give Amherst a 3-1 lead. Sean Wagner would fire a shot by Gib Versfeld to bring Cabrini within a goal to cut the deficit to 3-2 at the end of the quarter.
Dylan Peabody and Kevin Leyden traded goals in the early going of the second. Amherst continued to apply pressure on Cabrini as they struggled to get the ball over the center line.
Off a timeout, Matt Solberg blasted one over White’s left shoulder as Amherst would go up by two again. Jon Coffey then scored moments later, finding an open lane and take a feed from PJ Clementi to score his first of the day for a 6-3 lead.
Cabrini quickly began to chip away at the lead with a three-goal run to end the second and tie the game at six at the half. Tyler Kostack fired a laser 15 feet out. Jake Huey won the ensuing faceoff and went straight in on goal to make the score 6-5. Forty-six seconds after that Jordan Krug tied the game at six, making three goals in 56 seconds for Cabrini.
The third was tightly contested with ties of 7-7, 8-8 and 9-9 before Cabrini was able to get an edge.
Jackson Herrick’s second of the game broke the 6-6 tie 1:05 into the third. After a spectacular keep-in along the sideline by Leyden, Morgan fired Tucker’s pass into the back of the net to make it 7-7. Jordan Krug and Evan Wolf traded goals for the 8-8 score and Tucker and Solberg traded goals for the 9-9 score. The two clubs combined for six goals in the first six minutes of the third quarter.
Tucker’s second goal of the day from in close gave a 10-9 lead to Cabrini, which looked like a different team in the second half. The defense was stronger and goalie Riley White slowed up the Amherst offense. Tyler Kostack gave the Cavaliers a two goal lead with a shot down low. Evan Wolf cut Cabrini’s lead to one with a quick-stick but the third quarter would end with Cabrini up 11-10.
“When it comes to the third quarter we feel like nobody can run with us,” Tucker said, “and once we started clicking we knew shots were going to go. We make sure we stay on each other to never put our foot off the pedal and just keep pushing down no matter what it takes.”
Tucker came from behind the net and bounced off a check to score far side to open the fourth quarter. Timmy Brooks, whose story of redemption was recently chronicled by Inside Lacrosse, brought Cavaliers’ fans to their feet with the eventual game winning goal 1:50 into the fourth. Brooks had only been cleared for full contact the night before after rehabbing from a broken collar bone in February. Kyle Myers put Cabrini up by four 10 seconds later as the rain started to fall.
“It’s the thing that movies are written about,” Colfer said. “He deserves every second of this. He put himself in a bad spot in life, but he dug himself out, and this country was founded on second chances and redemption, and I’m a big believer in that and always will be.”
Each team added two more goals before the final whistle. White made some great saves in the last couple of minutes, stopping any Amherst chances.
“We have the underdog mentality,” Colfer said. “I gave my postgame speech three days ago, because I said in that locker room you’re not going to hear me. We’re either going to be celebrating a national championship, which we are, or we’re going to be suffering the agony of defeat, and whatever I say in that moment, you’re not going to hear me. And I tried to explain to them what unconditional is. If they win, I don’t love them more; if they lose, I don’t love them less, much the same as we have our children in our lives… and I really tried to connect with them on that and make sure that they understood it.”
Amherst’s offense was led by Jon Coffey, Jackson Herrick, Evan Wolf, and Matt Solberg, who each had two goals.
Cabrini was led by Kyle Tucker and Bill Morgan, each with hat tricks. Jordan Krug, Tyler Kostack and Timmy Brooks each scored twice. Krug also added three assists. Tucker was named the game’s MVP.