May 16, 2009

Tommie Time: St. Thomas Captures Title

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

There was a lot of work put into the Tommies title run, by those present and those who have already left the program.
© Ryan Mckee.

DENVER - Last year's loss in the semifinals was a traumatic time for St. Thomas head coach Pete Moosbrugger.

He just watched a senior class that had put St. Thomas lacrosse on the map graduate without the ultimate reward. Because of that, there were tears.

With his team clutching the MCLA Division II national championship trophy on Saturday evening, Moosbrugger provided a measure of solace for the Class of '08.

"I hope they feel a level of satisfaction because what happened this year is a cumulative effort of everyone who has ever been involved in our program," said Moosbrugger, still drying off from his postgame bath.

The team that was on the field should certainly feel satisfied because they eliminated any speculation about which team is the best in the division by handing Dayton, the No. 1-seeded team, a convincing 16-11 defeat.

The Tommies dominated just about every phase of the game, perhaps the most important being the transition game. With a near flawless clear and a savage ride, the midfield was all purple.

"We have tenacious players in the midfield; they're all great athletes and they can run," said Derek Michalski, one of the St. Thomas defenders who helped blunt the potent Dayton attack and also spark the break. "It's nice having a deep midfield and I think that's what got us to this point."

"We weren't catching the ball, which is unusual," said Dayton coach Charlie Mark. "But I have to credit their defense for that."

Dominating the midfield on this day was sophomore Joe Costello and junior Tony Sadder. Sadder was key in bringing the Tommies back from an early deficit with a hat trick in the first quarter (five goals and two assists total) while Costello added four goals and an assist, in addition to a poise that belies his years.

"We knew one of the biggest keys in the game was staying calm and we did that," said Costello. "There are a lot of curves and twists in the road, and we just kind of rode it."

The road was rocky early.

Holding to form in all of their big games this year, St. Thomas fell behind at the start. After scoring the first goal of the game, a Sadder bounce shot, the Tommies watched Dayton notch three unanswered markers. Christian Furbay started the run for the Flyers and was followed by Alex Walter and John Morrow.

Surviving the initial Dayton surge, St. Thomas responded with a three-spot of its own to take a 4-3 edge into the first quarter break. Sadder completed his hat trick sandwiched around a Costello score.

The run wasn't over for the Tommies, though, as the lead expanded to 9-3 - an 8-0 run over 14:57 - before Dayton managed to slow down UST. Costello accounted for three of the goals, upping his output to four, while Sadder chipped in with a pair of assists, giving him a five-point first half.

Sean Hartnett finally ended the streak, sneaking a shot past James Hoffman to trim the margin to 9-4 with 3:45 remaining in the half. It appeared the Flyers would get into halftime only down by five after the two teams traded goals, but with 1.9 seconds left, the Tommies showed a little toughness down low.

Costello hit Andrew Larson cutting in front of the crease and, while Larson took a punishing hit, he managed to sneak a shot just inside the near post for an 11-5 bulge at the break.

"There wasn't much space, but it looked a goalie stick in there," said Costello. "And Larson is the strongest kid on our team."

Dayton received one last boost of confidence.

Coming out of the halftime, which featured a player's only meeting in the corner of the field, the Flyers struck first on a Morrow dip-and-dunk off a feed from Walter. The feeling was short-lived as Sadder netted his fourth 12 seconds later to push the lead back to six goals.

By the time the third quarter was over, the Tommies lead was 13-7. The margin increased to seven early in the fourth quarter, where it would stay until Dayton netted a pair with under two minutes to play.

Moosbrugger talks about the cumulative effect of his program's maturation, and he's quick to credit the aggregate contributions of his coaching staff - offensive coordinator Jim Reilly and Brian Gross.

It's all about program momentum for the Tommies.

"Like I said," said Costello, "It's like riding that wave."

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