Men's Lacrosse Rallies Past Albion For Share Of First MIAA Title

By Lukas Cimbal

ALBION -- When the Hope College men's lacrosse team fell behind to Albion College 3-1 midway through the first quarter Tuesday night, neither frustration nor panic set in for the Flying Dutchmen.

Instead, they responded with a championship effort. 

Hope stormed back to score the next five goals and held the host Britons scoreless for a span of nearly 15 minutes en route to a 14-11 victory.

The Flying Dutchmen's first win against Albion clinched a share of their first MIAA regular-season title and the top seed for next week's league tournament.

"We were thinking about calling a timeout (while down 3-1) but I decided not to because I trust these guys," Hope coach Michael Schanhals said. "It wasn't going be a timeout and a speech that would turn things around as much as it was them adjusting and figuring it out. That's what they've done all year. I'm really proud of them."

Men's lacrosse is the seventh Hope team this school year to earn an MIAA title. 

Junior Gino Battaglia of Dayton, Ohio (Lebanon HS) scored the first two goals of the game for the Flying Dutchmen. He also assisted on Max Kuiper's goal that knotted the score at 3 with 3:56 remaining in the first quarter.

Andrew Pavey of Grand Rapids, Michigan (Forest Hills Eastern) scored just over a minute later to give Hope a 4-3 lead. Hope would never trail again.

"It's just being headstrong," senior midfielder Grant Brogan of East Lansing, Michigan (East Lansing) said when asked about Hope's dominance after its early deficit. "It's so easy to get scored on and the momentum shifts in lacrosse are so big. Being able to do what we know how to do and execute our systems really helped us tonight."

The Flying Dutchmen (13-1 overall) extended their school-record win streak to 13 matches.

Hope takes a 6-0 MIAA record into Saturday's regular-season finale at Kalamazoo.

Against Albion, Hope took a 9-6 lead into halftime before another stellar defensive effort helped the Flying Dutchmen extend their advantage even more.

Hope's third-ranked scoring defense in NCAA Division III blanked Albion in the third period.

Two goals from Brogan and one each from Pavey and Battaglia, coupled with some outstanding saves by junior goalie Nick Schanhals of North Muskegon, Michigan (North Muskegon), moved the Flying Dutchmen out to a 13-6 advantage with just under five minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

By the time Albion's Nickolis Antenucci found the net at the 9:46 mark of the final stanza, Hope had kept the Britons off the board for a span of 21 minutes and 26 seconds.

Nick Schanhals recorded 15 saves — tying for third-most in team history.

"(Nick) has done a great job for us," said Michael Schanhals, his father. "He's a really tough kid and it was neat to see that. I'm sure on the bus ride home I'll reflect on that a little bit."

Brogan was complimentary of his team's ability on offense, as seven players scored in the game for Hope.

"It's just made us so lethal as an offense," Brogan said. "(Albion) was bringing heavy slides from the way backside when we were dodging, so just a couple of passes and we were attacking from the opposite side. Everyone can score on this team and that just makes us so dangerous."

Michael Schanhals has seen the strides that his program has made over the past few years and hopes to make even more before the season is done.

"We've had tremendous support as a program all the way through our athletic department," he said. "We've had a little bit of time to get our recruiting classes established. We brought in 22 freshmen last year who knew how to play, but maybe not so much as a team (at the time). That's been the focus this year to do everything as well as we can together. Rule number one is to always have your teammate's back. 

"We've got a tough game Saturday against Kalamazoo and a home playoff game next week, so we've got to take care of business."

Battaglia finished the night with three goals and one assist against Albion (7-7, 5-1). Brogan also scored three goals, while Nathaniel Hentschel of Spring Lake, Michigan (Spring Lake) chipped in with two goals and four assists. 

Kuiper, of Grand Rapids, Michigan (Forest Hills Central), and Pavey also found the net twice for the Flying Dutchmen.

Rocco Mularoni of Hartland, Michigan (Detroit Catholic Central) had one goal and two assists, while Matthew Harkema of St. Louis Park, Minnesota (St. Louis Park) also notched one goal.

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