(Utica, NY)… The dynasty continues for the Royals. The San Diego team won its third straight National Collegiate Box Series (NCBS) championship, raising the cup Wednesday morning at The Utica University Nexus Center.
Playing in the tournament’s toughest pool, the resilient Royals won four of their five games by two or fewer goals. Wednesday was no different, as they defeated the Upstate Collegiate College Box Lacrosse (UCBLL) champion Hawkeyes 8-6.
“I don’t think we won more than one game by more than one or two goals,” said Royals transition man Marquez White. “That’s been the story of us the past three years. Every win has been a battle. We are used to battles like these. We are battle tested. That’s why we pulled this one out today.”
The Royals were the cardiac kids of the tournament, winning their first game in overtime over the Buffaloes (UCBLL) and then rallying to earn one-goal wins over the Red Hawks and Dragons. Their biggest victory was an 18-12 win over the Chesapeake Bird Dogs. In pool play, Caleb Mackie was impressive in goal, boasting a 9.66 goals-against average. With a 3-0 record, the Royals advanced to the semifinals.
Photo: Mark Murphy
The other playoff spot was tightly contested and featured three teams tied at 1-2. The Buffaloes, who rallied to defeat the Bird Dogs 12-11, were edged in a triple tiebreaker by the Red Hawks. The Red Hawks win came in dramatic fashion as Aden Sievert scored 52 seconds into overtime to give them a 10-9 win over the Buffaloes. Standout Andrew Williams backstopped the Colorado club.
Pool A featured another unbeaten team as the Hawkeyes raced to a 3-0 record behind the netminding of John Jacobs and stifling defense from Jake Piseno, Patrick, Mitchell, Ryan Sharkey, and Tyler Gould. The Rochester team limited its opponents to 24 goals in the first three games.
The Dragons from the California Collegiate Box Lacrosse League (CACBLL) finished second, with their only loss coming at the hands of the Hawkeyes, 11-9. The Dragons, coached by former NLL player Shaydon Santos, played a punishing brand of lacrosse. Cole Morris shined in back-to-back wins between the pipes, while Patrick McIntosh was impressive on the offensive end.
The Generals (Connecticut) finished in third place in Pool A after defeating the Guardians from Ohio. Christopher Crapanzano, who played for Team Poland at the 2023 Worlds, powered the Generals’ offense. The Guardians were aided by the play of Vandermont Academy incoming student Mark Henderson, who showed off his grit and goal-scoring touch.
In the consolation round, the Bird Dogs knocked off the Guardians in the fourth-place game, while the Buffaloes defeated the Generals in the third-place contest. Both victorious teams finished Nationals with a 2-2 record. The Bird Dogs were an exciting team to watch with their transition play and big three on offense in Daniel Kelly, Mic Kelley and Holden Patterson.
Photo: Mark Murphy
The Buffaloes team featured one of the most dynamic offenses, which included 15-year-old Chace Cogan and Dylan Lyons. Gage Stevens was also one of the top netminders in the tournament.
The semifinals included both teams from California as the Royals and Dragons squared off in the first game, while the Hawkeyes and the Red Hawks met in the nightcap. The final four provided high drama and showcased the tournament’s top two scorers, Mile Botkiss and Zachary Terry.
In the first semifinal game, the Royals again showed their poise and composure as they rallied from a first-half deficit to defeat the Dragons 10-9. Trailing 7-4, San Diego scored the game’s next five goals. Two late tallies from McIntosh and Eric Bollar tied the contest at nine with 1:54 left to play. However, Miles Botkiss scored his fifth goal of the game with 0.8 left and helped the Royals advance to the NCBS Finals.
The other semifinal was not as close as the Hawkeyes outscored the Red Hawks 11-3 in the opening half and sailed to a 16-5 win. Terry posted his third eight-goal game of Nationals to lead his team to its first finals appearance. Nate Senez also had a big afternoon with one goal and five assists.
In the NCBS Finals, Botkiss and Terry put on a show in the first half, combining for five of the game’s first six goals. Botkiss finished the game with three tallies, while Terry scored all but one of his team’s goals. The Royals secured the three-peat by scoring the game’s last two goals in the final four minutes.
White then put the game away with an empty-net tally with 1.8 seconds to play. He also notched a huge transition goal in the third to give his team a 6-5 lead. White’s biggest play, however, came with 14 seconds left as he blocked the Hawkeyes’ final shot on goal.
Botkiss notched the game-winner with under four minutes to play as he scored on a breakaway to give the Royals a 7-6 lead. One of the tourney’s top scorers with 23 goals, Botkiss credited his teammates for his phenomenal five-game stretch.
“They allow me to get open. I would be nothing without my fellow lefty Christian Rasmussen. He set hard picks all tournament,” he said. “He’s the guy no one’s going to talk about, but without him, it’s hard for me to get open. Same with Jack Ryan, and then on the other side, we have guys like Tayden Bultman and Zach Snider, who made big-time plays when we needed it. That takes the pressure off me at times.”
As valuable as Botkiss was to the Royals, Zachary Terry was equally as vital to the Hawkeyes. The Limestone product led the NCBS with 33 goals. Although facing punishing checks and double teams, Terry scored his team’s first two goals to give the Rochester team a 2-1 advantage. Terry would tack on one goal in the second and two in the third quarter. His final goal, a power-play tally, tied the game at six in the third frame.
Terry had a breakout tournament and was emotional as he talked about his team, which went 14-2 this summer.
“It was a heck of a run,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world. I am so proud of every single guy. They all played their roles and worked their tails off, but sometimes that’s how life goes.”
The Hawkeyes got another stellar game from Jacobs, who made 33 saves. Mackie was also solid in goal, stopping 28 shots. His two breakaway stops early in the fourth quarter kept the game tied at six.
“This game was incredible, and it was two high-powered teams,” said Royals head coach Cam Holding. “Both coaches made adjustments throughout the game. ‘Coatsy’ (Dan Coates) did some things at the end to throw some curve balls at us. We did that to them. It was just great lacrosse. Both teams have some high-caliber players, and all those players shined in this game. It was incredible to watch.”
For Coates, who led his team one round further than 2022, he summed up the season and the amazing team he had this year.
“It’s a special group. Just the commitment and the character we had,” he said. “It’s guys showing up every practice. It’s guys wanting to be coached and get better. It’s just a fun group to be around. We were one of the top two teams in the nation. They are a very good squad. It came down to three and a half minutes. Not the result we wanted, but we will be back next year.”