MJ: Adelphi is One Spooky Underdog
If you add everything up, Mercyhurst is the clear favorite in the men's Division II national championship game that will be played on Sunday at 4 p.m. The Lakers are not only grizzled from navigating their way through the Central region (aka, the ECC), but they are also a team on a hot streak, fresh off a 10-goal waxing of the two-time defending national champion.
One gets the feeling that the Adelphi team is just fine with this assumption. Playing the underdog role has suited the Panthers quite well to this point.
The Panthers were an underdog to even make the tournament – at least I thought they were – but managed to pull the upset (of sorts) and were selected as the automatic qualifier out of the North region. They followed that up with Saturday's game against former No. 1 Limestone in Gaffney, S.C., where Adelphi scored six consecutive goals in the second half to pull away for a 14-11 victory.
Now, here are the Panthers about to make their first title game appearance since they won it all in 2001 – part of Adelphi's string of three championships in four years.
The reason Gordon Purdie's troops thrive on the underdog role is pretty simple: they have a team that can match up well with any team's style. It starts with a defense featuring three experienced close defenders, led by senior All-American Dan Gill, and backboned by Eric Janssen, who has posted a staggering 6.71 GAA and a 66.1 save percentage for the 16-2 Panthers.
This is the same defense that held Limestone's Shayne Jackson and Riley Loewen – the two leading scorers in Division II with a 82 and 74 points, respectively – to one combined goal last weekend. Appropos of nothing, Mercyhurst held Jackson and Loewen to one goal and two assists, but gave up fewer team goals (8).
Joe Vitale has a shot measured at 104 MPH, according to Purdie, and gives Adelphi an outside shooting presence while Danny Blau has done a nice job making the attack click. Throw in a stable of solid midfielders, solid faceoff and EMO units, along with a knack for winning the close games, and the Panthers are a spooky team to face.
There's no doubting Mercyhurst's credentials. They have proven to be a resilient bunch that plays a disciplined brand of lacrosse that also shows well against all sorts of opponents. Still, the Lakers would be wise not to view themselves as the favorites this weekend. Adelphi likes that kind of stuff.