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RIT cruises into NCAA lax semis

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The No. 2 RIT (19-2) men’s lacrosse team extended its winning streak to 14 games with a 15-9 victory over No. 8 SUNY Cortland (17-3) in the NCAA Division III Quarterfinals Wednesday evening from Tiger Stadium. The Tigers will face No. 4 Wesleyan University (20-1) in the national semifinal on Sunday, May 21. It marks the fourth time in the last five year that the Tigers advanced to the semifinals, and will be the ninth time in program history.

Chad Levick (Newmarket, Ontario/Huron Heights Secondary) led RIT with four points on two goals and two assists. Ryan Lee (Sharon, Ontario/The Hill Academy) and Brendan MacDonald (Georgetown, Ontario/Trinity-Pawling) each scored three goals, while Kyle Killen (Peterborough, ON/Crestwood Secondary ) and Ben Tackett (Butler, PA/The Kiski School) each had two goals and an assist. Braden Wallace (Oakville, Ontario/Abbey Park) finished with a pair of goals.

Lee made history early in the third quarter, scoring his second goal of the day and 100th point of the season to make it 8-4 RIT. He became just the second player in program history to reach 100 points in a season and is now just four shy of Josh Molinari’s school record of 105, set in 2004. Lee is the only player in program history to have three 90-plus point seasons.

Shots were 47-37 in favor of Cortland. The Tigers held a slight 31-30 ground ball advantage, while each team won 14 face-offs. The Tigers went 19-of-23 on clearing attempts and were 0-for-2 on then man-up.

Nick Nesbitt (Burlington, Ontario/Salisbuury School) got the win in net for RIT, making 14 saves. Jimmy Spillane (River Vale, NJ/Pascack Valley) won 12-of-25 face-offs and had five ground balls. Eli Salama (Coquitlam, British Columbia/Dr. Charles Best) caused two turnovers, while Tackett finished with seven ground balls. Nesbitt has saved his best play for the end of the season. He has won 13 straight games with a 9.01 goals against average and a .612 save percentage over that stretch.

Devin Phelps led the Red Dragons with four points on two goals and two assists. Joey Panariello tallied two goals, while Thomas McNaney finished with three points on a goal and two assists. Joe Scalise took the loss in net, making 11 saves.

RIT led 4-0 after the first quarter, and took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter. MacDonald scored twice, while Tackett, and Levick each scored in the first quarter. Lee, Tackett and MacDonald each scored to open the second quarter scoring.

Phelps got the Red Dragons on the scoreboard with his goal with 4:45 to play in the second quarter that cut the RIT lead to 7-1. That started a four-goal outburst by Cortland to end the half. Dean Riley scored off a feed from Phelps at the 3:50 mark to make it 7-2, and Panariello made it 7-3 with his goal with 1:16 to play in the half. McNaney capped off the run with his goal off an assist from Jimmy Nielsen with 14 seconds to play.

Lee opened the scoring in the second half with his goal off an assist from Cam Isaac (Webster, NY/Webster Thomas) at the 10:03 mark to give RIT an 8-4 lead. Killen made it 9-4 RIT with his unassisted goal with 7:14 to play in the third.

TJ deLyra scored with 1:57 to play in the third to make it a 9-5 game, but Wallace scored off an assist from Jay Vakiener (Fairport, NY/Fairport) with 1:11 to play in the quarter to give RIT a 10-5 lead heading into the final quarter.

The Red Dragons scored the first two goals of the fourth quarter to cut the RIT lead to 10-7 on Panariello’s goal with 13:09 to play. Phelps opened the scoring with his goal off an assist from McNaney.

Lee scored the momentum shifting goal for the Tigers when he converted the “hidden-ball” trick right after Cortland its run. Lee and Vakiener made the exchange just outside the Cortland box. Vakiener drove like he had the ball, but Lee drifted over and fired a low shot into the open net to give the Tigers an 11-7 lead.

Wallace made it 12-7 with his goal with 11:32 to play. He slipped down, but got back up before the Cortland defense could take the ball away. Once he got back to his feet, he fired a shot into the top corner.

Nate Beresovoy scored with 9:07 to play that cut the RIT lead to 12-8, but Eli Salama (Coquitlam, British Columbia/Dr. Charles Best) took a feed from Drew Tosaya (Kenmore, WA/Inglemoor) in transition and buried a shot into the top corner to give the Tigers a 13-8 lead. After a Nielsen goal made it 13-9, goals from Killen and Levick in the final minutes made it a 15-9 final.

RIT has now won 14 consecutive games, scoring 277 goals over that stretch. Overall, RIT has scored 363 goals this season, second most in program history. RIT is now 23-18 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including an 18-5 mark in Rochester.

Both Lee and Levick have 59 goals this season. They could become the first duo in program history to surpass the 60-goal mark on Sunday.

RIT will take on No. 4 Wesleyan University at Tiger Stadium on Sunday, May 21 at a time to be determined. The Tigers have not faced Wesleyan since the 2006 NCAA Tournament in a game that the Cardinals won, 11-8.

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