June 117-23, 2004
Celebrating a Stellar Spring
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
Le Moyne College Sports Teams Post Winning Seasons
The Le Moyne men’s varsity lacrosse team’s NCAA Division II Championship underscored a banner season for the Dolphins’ athletic program as a whole, as the softball team won the first Northeast-10 Conference Championship in program history and the baseball team sustained its dominance over the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). The women’s lacrosse team also enjoyed its share of successes over the course of the 2004 campaign.
With incoming recruits hailing from a lacrosse hotbed such as Central New York, it was only a matter of time before the Le Moyne men’s lacrosse team would seize success. This spring the Dolphins achieved in dramatic fashion when, in a second-overtime session, Brandon Spillett scored his seventh goal to lift Le Moyne past Limestone in the NCAA Division II national championship at Ravens Stadium in Baltimore. “It’s the biggest win that we’ve ever had,” said Le Moyne coach Dan Sheehan. “But our kids believed in what we were doing all year long.” The Dolphins rolled into the NCAA tournament undefeated with a few close calls during the course of the season. Then 1-5 CW Post offered stern resistance April 17, assuming a 10-9 lead going into the fourth quarter. But the Dolphins prevailed, rifling off three unanswered goals for a 12-10 win. In the Northeast-10 Conference Championship, the Dolphins were challenged by surging Bryant but weathered the Bulldogs’ upset bid to win 7-6. The victory marked yet another highlight in Spillett’s remarkable season as the junior attackman scored four goals and was selected as the tournament’s MVP. Le Moyne avenged 2002 and 2003 NCAA playoff losses to NY Tech next, defeating the Bears 7-5. Last year, NY Tech defeated the Dolphins 12-11 and in 2002, 12-9. Both losses terminated Le Moyne’s seasons.
During a weekend of extraordinary lacrosse drama at Ravens Stadium, the Dolphins’ win stands as one of the most thrilling. Sheehan relayed that Limestone coach T.W. Johnson had spoken with him via telephone not long after the Saints’ tournament loss. Johnson revealed that on the bus ride back to South Carolina, he had said to the team, “Let’s play these guys again, because that was a fantastic game.” After an array of lead changes, the Saints took a 10-9 lead with one minute, 11 seconds remaining in play. An unsportsmanlike conduct call rendered the Saints a man down, but Le Moyne failed to capitalize on it. Limestone assumed possession, but Nottingham High School product Matt Holdridge forced a turnover. Spillett then charged the cage, quick dodged the defender, and slipped a shot past Limestone goalkeeper Charlie Gray to tie the game at 10 with two seconds remaining. During the first overtime session, Le Moyne goalkeeper Jared Corcoran made two critical saves to keep the Dolphins’ championship hopes alive. Spillett scored just 44 seconds into the second extra session, yielding the program’s first NCAA championship. The Liverpool High School graduate was selected as the championship game’s MVP. His seven goals were a career high. He also tacked on one assist. Defenseman Travis Tarr was given the responsibility of guarding the nation’s leading scorer David Wooster and he responded with aplomb, holding him to just one goal. Tarr, Spillett, and senior middie Matt Holdridge were honored as first-team all-Americans.
While the men’s team vaulted into both the regional and national spotlights with its postseason triumph, the women’s team claimed the MAAC regular-season championship before finally falling to Manhattan College in the conference final. The Dolphins had advanced to the conference final following an 11-10 overtime win over Fairfield. During the regular season, Le Moyne handed the Jaspers a 16-14 loss. Near the close of the season, sophomore Liz Hewitt and junior Sonya Kilcourse were both named first-team all-MAAC. Caitlin Lowie, Ashlyn Maguire, and Kristen Malecki were named second-team all-conference.
The 2004 campaign saw the Le Moyne men’s baseball team sustain its tradition of dominance over the MAAC. After a somewhat rocky start against several solid programs, the Dolphins surged to an 11-game win streak. Of those 11 victories, 10 were against conference opponents. Le Moyne capped the streak with a 13-1 thrashing of Canisius. Following the regular season, the Dolphins earned their third trip to the NCAA Division I tournament with a 6-4 MAAC Championship triumph over Manhattan. Le Moyne finally fell in the regional at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. The host Razorbacks, then ranked No. 8 in the country, defeated Le Moyne 3-1. The Dolphins’ hopes of advancing were finally squelched by Missouri, 11-3.
Le Moyne earned a host of conference honors, the jewel of which was outfielder Jeff Justice’s selection as 2004 MAAC Baseball Player of the Year. Justice led the conference in batting, hitting .404 (80-198) during the regular season. He also registered 47 RBI, 21 doubles, and 12 home runs, as well as 53 runs scored and 13 stolen bases. Teammate Bobby Blevins was selected 2004 MAAC Rookie of the Year. Blevins generated a 5-4 record on the mound for the Dolphins and a 2.93 ERA for his freshman campaign. He also recorded 51 strikeouts in 83.0 innings of work and held opponents to a .241 batting average. Le Moyne’s Matt Scherer was 2004 MAAC Pitcher of the Year. Scherer led the Dolphins with a 9-2 record and a league-best 2.08 ERA. He fanned 75 batters in 86.1 innings during the regular season and held opponents to a conference-best .196 batting average. Keith Connors, Justice, Kyle Brown, and Anthony Aquillino each earned all-MAAC first-team honors, while Andre Enriquez made the second team. Head coach Steve Owens was named the 2004 Anaconda Sports MAAC Coach of the Year. More recently, Scherer and Brown were drafted on the first day of the Major League Baseball draft. Scherer was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals organization in the 16th round, while the New York Mets drafted Brown in the 18th round.
Spearheaded by the efforts of five all-region selections, the Le Moyne softball team accrued a 34-10 record and also won its first Northeast-10 Conference Softball Championship. Freshman Lindsay Spaziani singled home teammate Kristen DesLauriers in the seventh inning to lift then No. 22 Le Moyne to a 2-1 win over Merrimack in the conference final. The tournament victory yielded an automatic berth in the NCAA Division II Softball tournament. Tournament MVP Megan Vecchiano scattered six hits, struck out three and allowed one run in her 16th victory of the season. She pitched top-seeded Le Moyne to three tournament wins. In the NCAA tournament, Le Moyne dropped into the loser’s bracket courtesy of a 2-1 loss to Caldwell and then fell 2-1 to Merrimack in 10 innings.
Senior first baseman Lindsay Connor and sophomore shortstop Jennifer Winters were named to the 2004 National Fastpitch Coaches Association Northeast Region first team, while Vecchiano, second baseman Megan Leppin, and DesLauriers were named to the second team.