March 9, 2014

Clarke Hits 200 Win Mark, Limestone Downs 'Mack

from press release

It was in doubt until the last second, but Limestone's victory over Merrimack gave J.B. Clarke his 200th win as a collegiate coach. (John Strohsacker)

TOWSON, Md. – Leading 8-4 late in the fourth, No. 5 Limestone (5-1, 0-0 CC) staved off a furious comeback to hang on for an 8-7 victory over No. 8 Merrimack (2-1, 2-0 NE-10) in a Division II men's lacrosse game on Sunday, March 9.

That victory gives head coach J.B. Clarke the 200th victory of his career with a 200-75 overall record.

Senior attack Todd Nakasuji (Ajax, Ontario, Canada) led the charge for Limestone with five points on a pair of goals and three assists while sophomore midfielder Mike Messenger (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada) finished with a goal, two assists, three groundballs and a pair of caused turnovers. One of those assists when to sophomore attack Kyle Rhatigan (Holbrook, N.Y.) who notched a goal and two assists.

Senior midfielder Joshua Williams (Davidsonville, Md.) and freshman midfielder Colton Watkinson (Burlington, Ontario, Canada) each added a goal and two groundballs while sophomore goal keeper Patrick Sheridan (Fairport, N.Y.) went the distance in net, allowing seven goals and making 12 saves to improve to 5-1 on the season. His efforts were aided by three caused turnovers from junior defender Peter Papaleonti (Annapolis, Md.) to round out the top performers.

"It was really nice of our guys to give me the game ball after the game," said Clarke. "When they said congratulations, I really did not know what they were referring to. I thought they had found 200 balls! We have been very blessed to work with so many terrific young men over the years. The credit goes to them and the assistant coaches. Thanks to Coach [Mike] Cerino and Limestone College for giving me the opportunity."

A rematch of one of the Saints tougher wins from a year ago, it would be Limestone that would jump out on top early. Nakasuji assisted on a pair of Ricci goals at the very beginning and end of the opening quarter while Messenger found Rhatigan at the 5:05 mark to help push out to a 3-1 lead.

After notching just one score in what was an explosive period for the Saints, Merrimack would take their turn at the beginning of the second as Ryan Poirier and James Caruso went back-to-back with unassisted goals at 13:55 and 12:25, respectively, to tie the score at 3-3. That deadlock would be short lived as a goal by Watkinson at 8:04 would spearhead a run of four straight goals that stretched to the 10:12 mark of the third quarter. That streak left Limestone with a commanding 7-3 advantage.

After neither team was able to find their offense over the next 20:05, a drought that made it more than nine minutes into the fourth, the teams exchanged goals in rapid succession with Poirier notching another unassisted at 5:07 and Joshua Williams connecting at 4:42 off a pass from Messenger.

With the game seemingly in hand at 8-4 with just minutes to play, it would be the Warriors that would maintain that burst of offense as Poirier delivered his third unassisted score, this time at 3:36, and was quickly followed by a man-up goal by Max Allen just over a minute later to cut it to 8-6.

Tim Towler then took it himself with 1:22 remaining to slice it to a one goal deficit before Andrew Walsh claimed the ensuing faceoff for Merrimack. Off of that win they would race down the field and put a pair of hard shots on goal but could not convert the equalizer as the Saints held on for the dramatic 8-7 victory.

Poirier paced the Warriors with three scores while Towler had a pair of goals. Walsh was dominant on the faceoffs, winning 13-of-17 and collecting a game-high six groundballs and Allen and Caruso had a goal apiece. Tucker Schwarz collected the lone assist on the day for Merrimack and Morgan Green played all 60 minutes between the pipes, allowing all eight goals and making five saves to fall to 2-1 on the year.

Limestone returns to their home field for just the second time this season as they host first year program Tusculum on Tuesday, March 11. Face off for that contest is set for 1 p.m. at the Upper Practice Field.

A matchup of teams that each had a great deal riding on the game when it comes to May's NCAA Selection Show, it also appears they didn't like each other very much as they totaled 13 combined penalties (9 on LC, 4 on MU) ... Limestone is now 4-1 all-time against Merrimack dating to the first meeting during the 1994 season ... their lone loss came by a 12-11 score on March 10, 2012 when the Warriors were No. 6 in the country.

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