Newport News, V.A. (NEWS10) — Senior Keaton McCann scored the game-winning goal with less than 10 seconds remaining as the #8/10 Union College men’s lacrosse team advanced to the national semifinals for the first time in program history with a thrilling 14-13 comeback victory over #16/12 Gettysburg College in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Div. III Championships on a steamy Saturday afternoon at Jennings Family Field.
McCann led all players with a game-high seven points, none bigger than his fourth goal of the game with less than 10 ticks on the clock that gave Union (17-2) the lead for good. Classmate Kieran McGovern assisted on the game-winning goal and also scored three times for four points, while sophomore Zach Davis also had three goals.
With the win, Union advances to the NCAA Semifinals, where they will face off with #5/6 York (Pa.) College, which defeated #3 Christopher Newport University in overtime, 10-9. The winner of that game will advance to the first national championship game in either program’s histories.
Gettysburg (14-8) took its final lead of the game at 13-12 with 1:28 remaining on Kyle Howard’s first goal of the game. But sophomore Matthew Paolatto won the crucial subsequent draw, and McGovern found the net from McCann with 56 seconds on the clock.
However, the biggest play of the game came on the following draw. With the ball headed out of bounds off of Union, juniors Clint Gourdeau and Gray Humphrey both dove to keep the ball in play, and Gourdeau then got up and knocked the ball out of a Gettysburg stick to give possession back to the Dutchmen.
“We had two guys dive on the ball to save it, and Gettysburg had one,” head coach Derek Witheford ’11 said after the game. “I’m really proud of our effort. We call those game-winning plays, championship plays. They sold out and left everything on the field. We got the ball and we were able to score the [game-winning] goal.”
With 17 seconds left, Davis started with the ball at midfield and darted right before dishing off to McGovern on the wing. The senior then dealt the ball off to McCann cutting from behind the cage and the attacker dove across the crease to put home the game-winner with 9.5 seconds on the clock.
“We had a good matchup on the wing and [Kieran] had a good shake down the alley,” McCann said. “I saw my defender take a step or a half-step, and I was able to get the ball and find the back of the net.”
Sophomore Dan Donahue came up big early in the game for the Dutchmen, making eight stops in the first half and finishing the game with 10 saves. Meanwhile, Paolatto won 13-of-17 faceoffs – including the last seven of the game – to give Union multiple critical possessions down the stretch.
“From the start, Dan made a couple huge saves for us in the first half to bail us out of a few sticky situations,” said senior defenseman Ryan Puglisi. “In a game like this, every stop was reassuring.”
In a game that came down to the final seconds, Union and Gettysburg played evenly through the first, second and third frames. The teams traded goals in the first quarter, with McGovern and McCann finding the net for the Dutchmen. The Bullets scored the first three goals of the second stanza to take the game’s largest lead at 5-2 less than two minutes into the period, but Union responded with the final three goals, with Davis and classmates Peter Burnes and Hayden Frey knotting the score after 30 minutes.
Back-to-back goals by the Davis brothers gave Union its first lead of the game, with senior Brian Davis netting an unassisted tally at 7:24 of the period to make the score 7-6. Another three-goal Gettysburg stretch in less than a minute turned the tide and gave the Bullets a 9-7 edge, but Union again had a response in the form of McCann and Burnes goals to even the score again at nine headed to the fourth.
Union showed its incredible resilience in the final frame, coming back from a trio of one-goal deficits to come away with the history-making win. The victory increased Union’s single-season wins mark to 17 and marks the first time in three chances that Union has made the national semifinals.
“It’s a huge moment for the team and the program,” Witheford said. “We have another day with this group and I’m very thankful for that.”
The Dutchmen will look to make more history tomorrow at 3 p.m. against York, looking to book a spot in the national championship game.