KEENE, N.H. – The Keene State College men’s lacrosse team is not only going back to the NCAA Division III Tournament, but will be hosting a first-round game against Castleton (Vt.) State on Wednesday (4 p.m.) at Owl Athletic Conference.
KSC Coach Mark Theriault said he wasn’t surprised that the Owls will be home in the opening round. “We hosted a couple of years ago and the NCAA likes our complex,” he said.
As far as playing Castleton, Theriault likes the match-up. “We don’t take anyone lightly. We’ll start getting ready for Castleton and go from there,” Theriault said.
The Owls (12-5) come into the tournament on a roll, having won their last nine games. KSC earned an automatic berth to the NCAAs by defeating Eastern Conn. 14-10 in the Little East Championship game on Saturday.
Castleton State (13-5) is making its first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Spartans received the berth after defeating six-time defending North Atlantic Conference (NAC) Champion Mount Ida College 11-5 in the NAC finals. Castleton enters the tournament riding a 10-game winning streak.
Keene State is led offensively by Griffin Meehan. Named the most outstanding player in the LEC championship game, the sophomore from Simsbury, Conn., netted six goals against ECSU, and has set season goal (66) and point (97) records. He needs two more assists (31) to establish a new mark.
The Owls will be without junior goalie Alec Corliss, who suffered an ankle injury in the LEC finals. Freshman Jason Leser will take over between the pipes. “I’m not concerned,” he said. “I played with this defense all season. I know what they are capable of doing and I just have to do my own thing.”
A member of the teams’ hard-hitting defense, senior Easton Kezer feels the Owls have come of age. “We’re peaking right now,” he said. “Players are starting understand what everybody else is bringing to the table. It’s been nothing but an incline since the start of the season.”
Senior attack Michael Martinez (45-12-57) and sophomore Samuel Bailey (28-35-63) lead the Spartans in scoring. Jake Rick and Evan Cassidy were recently named the NAC player and rookie of the year respectively.
Keene State will be facing Castleton State for the first time.
The Owls are making their third trip to the NCAA tournament. In 2005, KSC lost an opening-round home game to Endicott College 11-10. In 2007, the Owls defeated Merchant Marine 14-11 at Owl Athletic Complex, becoming the first LEC school to win an NCAA game. Advancing to the second-round, KSC lost to Western New England 13-5.
The winner of Wednesday’s game will face fourth-ranked Cortland State (15-2).