St. John's senior attackman Jake Helmer scored two goals and had two assists in the Johnnies' 14-9 victory over Dayton in the 2014 MCLA DII National Tournament Semifinals on Thursday, May 15. Photo courtesy of the MCLA
Playing in its third Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) DII National Championship game -- and first since back-to-back appearances in 2006 and 2007 -- No. 2-seeded St. John's will take on top-seeded Grand Valley State University on Saturday, May 17 for the title.
"This is what our goal has been since day one," St. John's coach Derek Daehn said. "We've been working towards this game as a team all year and we're excited to be playing in this game."
St. John's (13-2) advanced to the title game with a 14-9 victory over No. 3 University of Dayton in the semifinals. The Johnnies also defeated No. 7 Indiana Tech in the quarterfinals, 13-6, and No. 15 Missouri Valley College in the first round, 13-10.
"We've played some extremely talented teams on the way to the championship game," Daehn said. "There hasn't been one easy game and I think that will help us."
St. John's ends its seven-year drought of championship game appearances. The Johnnies lost to San Diego in 2006 and Montana in 2007, prior to both teams making the jump to Division I.
"While none of the players on our current team played in those games, there is no doubt in my mind that our team's history motivates these players," Daehn said. "We have an amazing dynamic where all players, past and present, still feel like part of the team."
St. John's will need more than the support of alumni and family to take home the title.
Grand Valley State University (14-2) took down the No. 4-seeded University of St. Thomas in the semifinals, 10-5. The Tommies were the defending MCLA DII champions from 2012 and 2013. Prior to the semifinals, the Lakers defeated No. 8 Western Oregon University in the quarterfinals, 13-5 and No. 16 Montana State University, 13-8.
The Lakers are making their third appearance in the MCLA DII Championship game losing to Westminster in 2008 and St. Thomas in 2012.
"Grand Valley State is a very good team," Daehn said. "They are well-coached and have very talented players. We know first-hand how good they are."
The Johnnies kicked off the 2014 season with a 15-11 victory over Grand Valley State on Feb. 28 in St. Paul, Minn. In six historical meetings, St. John's has a 5-1 record over the Lakers.
Daehn knows those past games mean very little in a championship game.
"Regardless of the history between our two teams, it all comes down to one game," Daehn said. "We know we're going to get their best game and we have to match that effort.
"We need to play the best Johnnie lacrosse our program has ever seen for all sixty minutes, give 120 percent and leave it it all on the field."
St. John's currently holds a 13-2 overall record including a 6-0 record in Upper Midwest Lacrosse Conference (UMLC) play. Among other teams, the Johnnies defeated No. 1 Grand Valley State University on Feb. 28 (15-11), No. 7 Indiana Tech on March 29 (9-5), No. 5 North Dakota State University on April 22 (14-10) and No. 4 University of St. Thomas twice on April 11 (11-10, OT) and in the UMLC DII Championship on April 27 (12-10) during the 2014 regular season. The two losses by St. John's were both in overtime; first to No. 6 Grove City College on March 28 (11-12) and a four overtime loss to No. 3 University of Dayton (8-9). The Johnnies advanced to the title game with a 14-9 victory over Dayton in the semifinals as well as victories over No. 7 Indiana Tech in the quarterfinals (13-6) and No. 15 Missouri Valley College in the first round (13-10).
Led by a powerful offense and traditionally strong defense, St. John's has outscored its opponents 207-110 during the 2014 season.
Senior captain Jake Helmer leads the Johnnies in goals (34), assists (27) and points (61). In addition to Helmer, St. John's has nine other players in double digits for points: junior midfielder Ben Martynec (25 goals, 20 assists); junior midfielder Andrew Fairbairn (18 goals, 15 assists); freshman attackman Brooks Armitage (19 goals, 12 assists); junior attackman Michael Culshaw-Maurer (21 goals, seven assists); junior attackman Cole Armitage (12 goals, 13 assists); senior midfielder Miles Armitage (15 goals, six assists); sophomore midfielder Jake Senta (13 goals, six assists); junior midfielder Owen Barkely (12 goals, two assists); and freshman attackman Eric Zickerman (four goals, 10 assists). Senior captain Luke Eggerichs and sophomore defenseman Nilan Anderson anchors the St. John's defense. Anderson leads the team with 46 ground balls. Sophomore goaltender Tyler Olson has a 12-2 record between the pipes for the Johnnies posting a .600 save percentage on the season.
The season started out on the wrong foot for Grand Valley State University with a pair of losses to No. 2 St. John's University on Feb. 28 (11-15) and No. 4 University of St. Thomas on March 1 (8-12). The Lakers responded with 14-straight victories including wins against No. 5 North Dakota State on March 2 (9-7); MCLA DI No. 18 Davenport University on April 16 (13-12); No. 7 Indiana Tech University on April 18 (17-4); No.16 Lourdes University on April 26 (19-5); and No. 3 University of Dayton (11-6) in the Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association (CCLA) DII Championship on May 3. Grand Valley State University advanced to the title game scoring seven unanswered goals on its way to a 10-5 victory over St. Thomas in the semifinals as well as victories over No. 8 Western Oregon University in the quarterfinals (13-5) and No. 16 Montana State University in the first round (13-8). The Lakers have a 14-2 overall record -- including a 7-0 record in CCLA play -- and have outscored opponents 243-97 during the 2014 season.
Grand Valley State has multiple offensive threats with 12 players in double digits for points: junior attackman Zack Grusell (26 goals, 54 assists); senior attackman Brenden Austin (42 goals, 10 assists); freshman attackman Erick Sundstrom (28 goals, 11 assists); sophomore midfielder Seth Kuehnl (23 goals, 15 assists); junior midfielder Charlie Farmer (21 goals, 15 assists); sophomore attackman Jakob Kippola (16 goals, 16 assists); junior midfielder Conor Schwalm (15 goals, three assists); sophomore midfielder Matt Deveaux (13 goals, one assist); freshman faceoff specialist Connor Heidenreich (12 goals, two assists); sophomore midfielder Jesse Gilbert (eight goals, five assists); freshman midfielder Tony Beranak (seven goals, four assists); and freshman attackman Tyler Shear (eight goals, two assists). Senior defenseman and captain Jake Sieler leads the team with 78 ground balls. Freshman goaltender Kyrn Stoddard is allowing an average of 6.23 goals per game and posts a .648 save percentage this season.
A live stream of the game will be provided by the MCLA: http://mcla.us/national_tournament/2014/1/live.html.
MCLA National Tournament