Cabrini Caps a Storybook Run With First National Championship
5/28/2019 7:08 AM

PHILADELPHIA — Cabrini is 1-0 in national championship games. 

The Cavaliers — whose “1-0” mentality was what got them through a South gauntlet in the tournament and all season — beat Amherst, 16-12, Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

It was a spectacular and shocking run for the Cavaliers, who avenged both of their regular season losses in the lead-up to the final, battled season-ending injuries to key players early in the year, as well as one in the opening minutes of Sunday’s game, and had one of the most talked-about personal stories of any team at Championship Weekend — all while playing in their hometown in front of a sea of fans in blue.

Goalie Riley White had 11 saves, Jordan Krug has two goals and one assist, Kyle Tucker had three goals and an assist, and Bill Morgan had three goals.

Timmy Brooks, the subject of a lengthy feature story about his path to Cabrinifollowing drug recovery and a jail sentence, had two goals —including the game-winner— after being cleared for full play only the night prior after being limited to only man-up because of a broken collarbone.

Colfer said in the week leading up to the NCAA Title Game that his pregame speed —“go 1-0”— had pretty much the same each week. Somewhere in the locker room after each game after each victory in their run, he’d see “1-0” written.

His postgame speech, though, was given Thursday at practice. He didn’t want to give it amid the noise and chaos of the championship. He wanted the team to hear and digest it.

“I didn’t want to have to do it in there with jubilation or agony of defeat. I wanted them to know how I feel. I said ‘I love you win or lose. I won’t love you any more or less,’” he said. “You’re going to see that in the parking lot when I see 19 years of alums, too.” 

Amherst controlled the pace early but never pulled away; its largest lead was 6-3 midway through the second quarter. A three-goal Cabrini run in the span of less than one minute gave a spark that allowed the Cavs to stay in striking distance. Tyler Kostack scored, the Jake Huey followed with a goal on the opening face-off 10 seconds later. Then, Krug used his athleticism to score his first of the day, tying the game at 6 with 7:18 left in the second.

The teams traded barbs after that, with Cabrini first taking the lead four into the third quarter on another Krug score. The Mammoths kept coming back until a three-goal run early in the fourth gave the Cavaliers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The third quarter had been kind to Cabrini all year; the Cavaliers outscored opponents by 62 goals in the third this season.

Tucker kicked it off, bodying his man and burying a shot with authority just above GLE. Then, Brooks, who played full-time minutes for the first time since his early-season injury because of an injury to starting attackman Jakob Klein, buried what would become the game-winning goal. Ten seconds later, longpole Kyle Myers scored off the face-off, falling down in celebration.

Tucker’s hat trick was his 11th of the season; six of them came in seven postseason games (two in the Atlantic East Tournament, four in the NCAA Tournament). He was named Most Outstanding Player.

Nine different players scored in what was the second all-time meeting between the two schools in any sport. The only other meeting between the universities was an Amherst win in the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Quarterfinals.

The possession advantage helped, as did White’s game in the cage, in trying to slow down a prolific Amherst offense. He was athletic and active — sliding across the crease or picking off a pass from behind — en route to victory.

All of it culminated in a storybook fashion for Cabrini. The Radnor, Pa., program that had never been to the NCAA Semifinals, nor won a national championship in any sport, had a series of coincidences and made-for-TV moments that Colfer described as “some bigger power than us” at work.

His seat for the other games at Lincoln Financial Field was a few away from where he saw the Eagles beat the Minnesota Vikings to get to the Super Bowl. Brooks received a phone call from his surgeon at the team dinner Saturday night, clearing him for full contact. It was much needed, as he stepped when Jakob Klein hurt his ankle early. Week in week out it was seemingly another obstacle — but a solution always was there.

“You go home after injuries and setbacks, you talk to your wife and your assistants, and every day you come back to practice and re-formulate things,” Colfer said. “And the kids — they would just step into the fold and make plays. Never drop their heads, keep believing.”

Colfer, who coached at Cabrini for 19 years, would be certain to email first-time Championship Weekend participants and congratulate them each year because it gave him hope. Amherst, too, was playing in its first final.

“So if there's anyone out there thinking, I don't know if we're doing it right, if we're recruiting the right kids, I don't know if I have the right support. You gotta be persistent. You gotta plant your flag somewhere in life and work hard around it, and I really believe if you do that the potential is there for you in your program,” he said. 

And written on the board in the locker room after the game? 1-0.

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