Last year, the Hawkeyes fell three goals short in the championship game. This summer, they left no doubt who the top team was in the Upstate Collegiate Box Lacrosse League (UCBLL).
In the UCBLL title game, the Rochester-based team knocked off the Rapids 15-6 to punch their ticket to Nationals in San Jose, Calif. The Hawkeyes captured their first regular season and playoff titles this summer by winning eight of their 11 games.
After the dominating effort in their league championship game, the Hawkeyes will represent the UCBLL at the National Collegiate Box Series National Championships this week.
Zachary Terry, who had five goals in the championship game, said the culture of this year’s club was the difference.
“It feels like a family,” he said. “Everyone is always hanging out with each other and calling each other. This is the closest thing I have to a direct family outside of my mom and dad.”
The team’s closeness was evident when they raised the Randy Mearns Cup last Thursday. They did the little things like attending practices and being ready to go on game days. The preparedness helped the team win their final four games to surge past the Armory and Rapids for the league title.
Forward Nicholas Miller led the Hawkeyes with two goals and five assists in the win over the Rapids. After the final buzzer, he was honored to receive the Mearns Cup from its namesake Randy Mearns. It was a huge accomplishment for the scrappy group.
“It’s a brotherhood that we established here,” said the team captain, who led the UCBLL with 54 points. “From the get-go, we knew we would be close and bond (as a team). From there, it was all hands on deck, and we had one goal in mind. That was to get the Cup.”
In UCBLL Finals, the Hawkeyes showed their resiliency after falling behind three times in the first quarter. It was a goal from their leader and a speech by the coaching staff that turned the contest around.
With the game tied at three after the Miller goal to end the first, the Rochester club scored the next five goals to take an 8-3 lead in the third.
“It’s what the coaches said after the first quarter,” said Terry. “(They told us to) just keep playing your game, move it fast, keep shooting and do all the fundamental things right.”
Terry, who scored a team-high 27 goals in the regular season, scored twice in the first half. He connected at 7:59 of the first to tie the game at two apiece. The power play tally was one of five for the Hawkeyes. His second of the contest gave his club its first lead at 4-3, and they would never look back.
In the second half, the Hawkeyes netted eight straight goals to move in front 15-4 and put the contest out of reach. Six different players collected goals, with Dylan Snow notching his second and third of the night.
In goal, John Jacobs made 28 saves to earn his fifth straight win of the season. His goals-against average in the postseason remained an impressive 6.00. During the regular season, Jacobs was 3-0 with a 10.00 goals-against average and a .713 save percentage.
“It all starts with goaltending,” said coach Dan Coates. “John was awesome. Our defense in front of him did a good job allowing him to see shots. John was a brick wall.”
The defense held the Rapids’ leading scorers Christian Watts and Kellen Pulera – who scored a combined 46 goals in nine games – to just one goal and one assist in the UCBLL Finals.
It all started with the play of University at Albany product and UCBLL veteran Conner Fingar. It was his return, along with Tanner Soudan, and the addition of Alex Polisoto that helped the Hawkeyes bolster their back end.
“He has this aura about him,” said Coates. “He was the leader back there right away. He can play both sides of the ball. We’re fortunate enough to have him. I love his game. There is a high ceiling for him moving forward.”
Fingar and his teammates head to California on Thursday to begin pool play. The Hawkeyes will open the National Championships with an 11:30 pm (EST) showdown against the Grays from the Mid Atlantic Collegiate Box Lacrosse League. On Friday, the Hawkeyes will face off against the Connecticut champs (Revolution) and the defending champs from California, the Royals. All the games will be live streamed on NCBS.tv.
“It is going to be amazing,” said Terry. “The journey to get there was a couple of months of really hard work. It’s going to be a great experience for everyone.”
“We have to take our game to the next level,” added Miller. “We knew this was just a step toward our end goal, and that was to win in Cali.”