A familiar foe will once again provide the first challenge in the Mount Ida men’s lacrosse team’s quest for the Great Northeast Athletic Conference championship, as the third-seeded Mustangs will entertain sixth-seeded Johnson & Wales in the 2018 league quarterfinal round on Saturday afternoon at Alumni Field beginning at 3:00 p.m. EDT.
Head Coach Andrew Fink’s squad enters the post-season having won eight of its final 11 matches, as Mount Ida posted a 7-2 GNAC mark to finish third in the conference standings. The Mustangs are seeking their third overall league playoff crown and have qualified for all eight post-season tournaments since joining the GNAC in 2011, as Fink has led his troops to the conference title match in five of the last seven campaigns.
Junior attack Kyle Ton (Norwich, Conn./Norwich Free Academy) leads a balanced attack with 37 goals and 20 assists for 57 points for Mount Ida, as he was tabbed as the GNAC Corvias Player of the Week back on March 19th. Senior co-captain Marcus Donahue (Braintree, Mass./Blue Hills) follows with 26 goals and 17 assists for 43 points, while sophomore attack Dakari Eason (Norwalk, Conn./Norwalk) is next with 21 tallies and 19 helpers for 40 points. Freshman midfielder Mike Alibrandi (Holliston, Mass./Holliston), who is the reigning GNAC Corvias Rookie of the Week, has enjoyed a solid campaign with 16 goals and 21 assists for 37 points for the Mustangs, who have received 30 markers and 32 total points off the stick of junior midfielder Owen LaPorte (Farmington, Conn./Farmington).
Senior midfielder Alex Zito (Andover, Conn./RHAM) has shined in the face-off circle throughout the spring for Fink’s squad, as he has claimed 141 draws for a .513 winning percentage, while junior Shayne Rix (Westwood, Mass./Silver Lake) and sophomore AJ Yarrow (Middletown, R.I./LaSalle Academy) have combined for 37 caused turnovers and 64 ground balls in regular season play.
Senior co-captain Cam Hayward (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton Academy), who was an all-GNAC selection a year ago, has been one of the top last lines of defense in the region in goal for Mount Ida, as he leads the conference with an 8.96 goals against average and ranks in the top 40 nationally in NCAA Division III play with a .588 saves percentage on 194 total stops. Hayward, the reigning GNAC Corvias Goalkeeper of the Week, ranks as the winningest netminder in school history with 35 career triumphs.
The Mustangs’ opponent in Saturday’s quarterfinal will make its second visit to Alumni Field in a four-day span, as Mount Ida posted a 6-5 win over Johnson & Wales in Wednesday night’s regular season finale behind six points from Ton and a 16-save effort in goal from Hayward. Head Coach Nick Coppola’s Wildcats, who enter the post-season at 6-11 overall after a 5-4 GNAC finish, are led in scoring by senior midfielder Eric Russo’s 37 goals and 33 assists for 70 points. Junior midfielder Ben Farrell and senior attack Sam Sears have combined 48 tallies and 37 helpers for 85 points for Johnson & Wales, while sophomore Bradley Morris has posted all six wins in goal while registering 218 saves.
Mount Ida and Johnson & Wales will meet in the conference tournament for the third straight season, as the Mustangs avenged a 14-9 setback in the 2016 GNAC semifinals with a 16-13 win over the Wildcats in last May at Alumni Field. Saturday’s contest will be the 24th post-season match in school history, as Mount Ida has notched a 17-6 (.739) mark since 2004.
The winner of Saturday’s match advances to the GNAC semifinals to take on the winner of the contest between second-seeded Lasell and seventh-seeded Emmanuel on Wednesday at the site of the higher seed, as Saturday’s other quarterfinal round clashes will pit top-seeded Norwich against eighth-seeded Anna Maria and fourth-seeded Saint Joseph’s (Maine) entertaining fifth-seeded Rivier.
For complete brackets and updated tournament information, please visit www.thegnac.com.
(Photo Credit: Karen Zito)