by Matt Morrison | MCLA.us
ORANGE, Calif. – Top-seeded St. Thomas jumped out to fast start and hustled out a wire-to-wire victory over No. 4 North Dakota State, 12-9, as the Tommies earn their sixth trip to the Division II title game at the 2016 MCLA National Championships powered by Under Armour.
“It feels great. It’s been since 2013 that we were there,” an excited St. Thomas coach Brian Gross said. “A lot of these guys haven’t played in that game. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The Tommies charged out of the gate taking a quick three-goal lead by the mid-point of the first quarter on goals by Jake Bauman, Erik Thysse and Simon Gondeck, all midfielders.
“To be able to play from out in front is a very comfortable position for us,” said Gross. “We know we don’t have to push as much in transition, we know we can value each and every possession and be really efficient.”
“Building the confidence is a good way to start the game,” echoed Tommies sophomore attackman Charlie Venable, “From there it’s just morale; you gotta keep it going the whole game.”
It didn’t take long for North Dakota State to mount a comeback as the Bison netted a pair of goals in a span of 28 seconds with Mike Kukulski and Alex Larsen finding the net. It was a two-goal game at 4-2 after one quarter and after trading a pair of goals, St. Thomas had a 6-4 lead at half.
The third quarter was the difference as the Tommies outscored the Bison 4-2 in the period to take a 10-6 lead in to the fourth. Two more UST scores made it 12-6 but NDSU refused to give in.
The Bison scored three straight goals to make it interesting, but that’s all the gas there was in the tank. The Tommies’ lead proved insurmountable and their ball control offense was enough to drain the clock.
“They always show up ready to play a full 60-minutes,” Gross complimented the Bison, a UMLC opponent they beat 14-7 two months ago to the day. “We were prepared for the full 60 minutes today.”
“Give NDSU credit. They put up a great battle at the faceoff X, they were winning ground balls all game, but we were burying (goals), which is all you need at the end,” Venable added.
A total of eight St. Thomas players found the net, with Venable leading the way three goals. Dan Burke and Vijurns scored two apiece. Alex Larsen scored two to lead the Bison.
“They’re definitely the team to beat down here and we just didn’t do it,” summed up North Dakota State coach Zach Bosh, who’s Bison finish with a 15-3 record. “They deserve to win, they worked hard and they were willing to battle the entire time, so they got what they deserved.”