NEWMAC Finals Preview: No. 2 Clark at No. 1 Springfield

Anchored by GK Drew Riopelle-Tyrrell, Clark's defense will be key in Saturday's title match. (Photo By Kendra Walker, '19)
Anchored by GK Drew Riopelle-Tyrrell, Clark's defense will be key in Saturday's title match. (Photo By Kendra Walker, '19)

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Final Exam
Fresh off of the program's first ever postseason victory, second-seeded Clark University travels west to face top-seeded Springfield College in the 2017 New England Women's And Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) lacrosse championship game with a berth to the NCAA Tournament on the line.

Familiar Foes
Saturday's trip to Springfield is the Cougars second meeting with the Pride in the last ten days. Last Wednesday, the Scarlet and White had a 5-4 lead midway through the second period before the Springfield scored six goals in a row to grab control and post an eventual 15-9 win.

Daunting Task
Clark will face a Pride squad in search of their tenth straight conference tournament title and corresponding tenth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. After dropping their first-ever home NEWMAC game to Coast Guard back on April 19, Springfield has won four straight by averaging 12.2 goals per game.

Nine Lives
The Cougars' loss to Springfield on April 26 was their only home loss of the season and remains as their only defeat in their last nine games.

Semifinal Rewind
While the offense will get a lot of credit for the Cougars' win over MIT on Wednesday, the defense was outstanding. They held the league's top offense to a season-low five goals, without a score for nearly 30 minutes and forced 15 turnovers. Clark also held a sizable advantage in groundballs (34-26) led by Will Roberts who scooped up a season-high eight.

One-Sided Affair
Springfield leads the all-time series, 20-0 since the two teams began playing back in 1999.

So, We Meet Again
Saturday's meeting with the Pride will mark the two teams second postseason meeting of all time. Back in 2014, then No. 4 seed Clark jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter before the top-seeded Pride scored seven straight to seize control of the contest on their way to a 13-3 victory on April 30.

History In The Making
Clark head coach Jeff Cohen starred for the Cougars in the early 2000s and returned to take over the program in 2010. Since his arrival, he has won two league coach of the year awards, become the program's all-time leader in coaching victories and for the past three seasons, he has reestablished the school record for wins in a season, including the 13 they have this season.

Already The Leader
In just eight seasons at the helm of the program, not only is Cohen the program's all-time leader in wins, but his 64 victories entering Saturday's championship game, are more than half of the program's all-time wins (126) in their 28 years of existence.

What A Season
2017 will undoubtedly go down as the most successful in school history. In addition to their school-record 13 wins and first-ever postseason victory, the Cougars have set school benchmarks for goals in a season (184), assists in a season (110) and points in a season (294).

The Right Time
Nick Johnson added to his impressive credentials on Wednesday by pumping in a career-high six goals in the Scarlet and White's 13-5 win over MIT. He scored three goals in the fourth quarter to end any hopes of an Engineer comeback and finished with eight points overall.

Adding To His Totals
Already the school's all-time leading scorer, Nick Johnson enters Saturday's showdown with 212 points, including a school-record 119 assists. Meanwhile, his 93 goals are sixth-most in school history and just four behind his older brother and current assistant coach Chris Johnson's 97 career tallies.

Climbing The Charts
Cougar sniper Will Mandracchia is eighth on the school's all-time goals scored list with 75 and when you add in his 40 career assists, he ranks tenth in all-time points scored (115).

Just How We Drew It Up
Drew Riopelle-Tyrrell became the school's all-time wins leader in goal earlier this season and enters Saturday's contest with 24 career wins and school records for goals against average (8.25) and save percentage (60.3). In 2015, Riopelle-Tyrell led the country in save percentage (65.4).

Royal Declaration
Brandon King brings to Springfield with him a stretch of nine straight games with at least two goals scored and the second-most  goals scored (41) in the league. That total is the third most in a single season in school history behind only Andrew Webber's 43 in 2005 and John Toto's 58 in 1999.

Taking Advantage
Clark enters Saturday's matchup as one of the best teams in the league in extra-man opportunities with 18 goals. Brandon King and Isaac Bass each have four strikes on the EMO, while Will Mandracchia has three.

In The Crease
Saturday's game will feature arguably the two best goalkeepers in the conference in Clark's Drew Riopelle-Tyrrell and Springfield's Jake Reynolds. Riopelle-Tyrrell leads the conference in goals against average, while Reynolds tops the league in save percentage (60.9).

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