Emmitsburg — The Robert Morris men’s lacrosse team’s philosophy of living dangerously is still strong.
For the second time in as many games, the Colonials rallied in the fourth quarter, this time scoring the final six goals to upend host Mount St. Mary’s, 13-12, in overtime in the first semifinal of the Northeast Conference tournament at Waldron Family Stadium on Thursday evening.
Robert Morris (8-7), the No. 4 seed, advanced to Saturday’s tournament final at 4 p.m., marking its second consecutive appearance in the league’s title game. After a 1-7 start, the team has won seven straight games.
The Mountaineers, the top seed after capturing their first conference regular-season championship since 2011, missed their first trip to the tournament final since that season. They are the seventh No. 1 seed in the past eight years to fail to win the tournament crown.
On Saturday, the Colonials dug themselves out of a 15-11 hole in the final 15 minutes to edge Hobart, 16-15, in overtime. On Thursday, they roared back from a 12-7 deficit with 1:42 left in the third quarter.
“We knew we had to step it up,” senior midfielder Tyson Gibson said. “That’s been our theme all year. We’ve been down, and we just had to keep fighting one goal at a time.”
Sophomore attackman Corson Kealey led Robert Morris with four goals and one assist, but it was Gibson who punched in the winning goal with 1:47 left in the extra session.
Standing behind the cage, Gibson recognized that a couple of the Mountaineers’ offensive players were caught on defense. With no one pressing him, he curled the left post, faked a high shot and slid the ball under sophomore goalkeeper Dylan Furnback to set off a raucous celebration.
“I was a little hesitant at first, and then I saw it, and I went,” he said. “Just coming from behind the net, most goalies have their sticks up high. So I just gave him a little hedge and fired low.”
Robert Morris shut out Mount St. Mary’s over the final 16:42 of regulation by switching to a zone defense. That strategy neutralized junior attackman Brenden McCarthy’s ability to dodge from behind the net and forced the Mountaineers to find someone other than McCarthy to draw slides.
“We could tell they were trying to run the clock down a bit,” said senior goalkeeper Alex Heger, who made 14 saves. “We played that to our advantage and ran our zone and shut them out basically. We just played locked-down D.”
The late comeback effort by the Colonials mirrored what the Mountaineers did to Robert Morris earlier this season, storming back from an 11-8 deficit to emerge with a 14-11 win March 23. Robert Morris coach Drew McMinn said he and his coaches made a point of reminding the players of that game after the third quarter.
“As a team, we talked about how that was our last loss and how we just got out-worked in the fourth quarter,” he said. “So we were challenging the guys and saying, ‘Hey, we turned things around with a six-game winning streak because our effort was increasing. So it’s now or never, and we have 15 minutes to do the exact same thing they did to us in the regular season.’ The guys responded and did it.”
McCarthy paced Mount St. Mary’s (9-7) with five goals and Furnback turned aside a game-high 16 shots. But coach Tom Gravante said the team failed to capitalize on several opportunities in the fourth quarter to distance itself from the Colonials.
“We had some opportunities where the ball was delivered on-point, and our guys either just weren’t poised enough to hit the cage or whiffed,” he said. “They had the ball in their sticks and just dropped it. Those are the in-game situations where if the team wins those, they’re going to win the game. In that case at 12-7, if you let a team stick around, especially a team like this that is extremely dangerous in transition, they’re going to get back in the game. So it’s unfortunate.”
Robert Morris; 3; 3; 3; 3; 1; —; 13
Mount St. Mary’s; 3; 3; 6; 0; 0; —; 12
Goals: R—Kealey 4, Gibson 2, E.Smith 2, Autry, McCulley, Scane, Schmidt, Sulhoff; M—McCarthy 5, DiPretoro 2, Frankeny, Doyle, Haggerty, Mangan, Milione. Assists: R—Gibson, Kealey, Majewski, Popovich, D.Smith; M—DiPretoro, Mangan. Saves: R—Heger 14; M—Furnback 16.
No. 2 seed Hobart 14, No. 3 seed Sacred Heart 13: The Statesmen were outscored 5-0 in the final quarter, but still held on to make their fourth appearance in the Northeast Conference tournament final in the last six years.
Junior attackman Eric Holden compiled four goals and one assist, and freshman midfielder Derrek Madonna contributed two goals and two assists for Hobart (10-4). Senior faceoff specialist Matthew Pedicine won 22-of-31 draws and scooped up a game-high 17 ground balls.
Senior midfielder Max Tuttle paced the Pioneers (9-6) with three goals and two assists, redshirt senior attackman Joe Saggese added two goals and two assists, and sophomore midfielder Logan Liljeberg scored four times.
Liljeberg’s final goal off a pass from Tuttle drew Sacred Heart within a goal with 1:51 left in regulation, but sophomore long-stick midfielder Ethan Black Fernandes picked up a loose ball off the ensuing faceoff, and the Statesman ran out the clock.
Sacred Heart 3 3 2 5 — 13
Hobart 5 5 4 0 — 14
Goals: S—Liljeberg 4, Tuttle 3, O’Reilly 2, Saggese 2, Edwards, Lacey; H—Holden 4, Knox 2, Madonna 2, Archer, Aslanian, Birch, Gilbertson, Mott, Scott. Assists: S—Saggese 2, Tuttle 2; H—Archer 2, Madonna 2, Aslanian, Holden, Pedicine, Ryan, Sherman. Saves: S—Dutton 3, King 13; H—Lucchesi 9.