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Head coach Gordon Purdie led Adelphi to its first national championship since 2001.

Adelphi, Purdie 'Never Gave Up Hope' in Pursuit of First Title Since 2001

May 26, 2024
Patrick Stevens
Rich Barnes

PHILADELPHIA — Adelphi tacked on its long-awaited eighth Division II men’s lacrosse title Sunday — and its coach’s hair is coming off as a result.

“It was a commitment I made, and I’m an honest guy,” Gordon Purdie said after telling two of his players to get the scissors ready in the wake of the Panthers’ 12-10 victory over Lenoir-Rhyne. “I just haven’t told the wife yet.”

Purdie is an Adelphi man through and through, an All-American midfielder during the Panthers’ Division I days in the 1980s and the head coach at the Long Island school for the last 17 years.

And now, after the Panthers rallied from a four-goal deficit in the second half before 12,156 at Lincoln Financial Field, part of the program’s first national title since 2001.

Brian Harinski scored four goals and Kyle Steinbach added three — all in the final 23 minutes — for Adelphi (17-2), which closed the season on a 15-game winning streak.

“We just never gave up hope, and we all felt confident shooting the ball and they went in the back of the net,” Harinski said. “No better feeling.”

Jarrett Huff had two goals and two assists for the Bears (17-2), which had an 11-game winning streak snapped. Lenoir-Rhyne scored just twice in the final 26:23 as it was denied becoming the first back-to-back D-II champion since Merrimack in 2018-19.

The Bears committed turnovers in six of their last seven possessions after having just seven giveaways in the first three quarters.

“Their zone defense was really good,” Lenoir-Rhyne attackman Evan Voss said. “We knew that going into the game and spent the week prior preparing for that zone. We just made a few too many mistakes that caused us to not put the ball in the back of the net.”

The Bears were in solid shape at the half, leading 6-4 before scoring the first two goals of the second half.  They’d predictably gotten the better of possession against Adelphi’s injury-riddled faceoff unit and had the better part of play except for one thing.

Panthers goalie Dylan Renner, the Division II player of the year, made eight of his 15 saves in the first quarter.

“We knew he had the ability to do that, to kind of shut the door,” Lenoir-Rhyne coach Greg Paradine said. “We could have stretched it out a little bit, but he made some critical saves early to keep them in.”

The Panthers were careful not to overwork their first midfield in the first half, and Purdie worried he might have held them back too long. He shouldn’t have.

Harinski scored twice in less than a minute in the middle of the third, and Steinbach added his first two goals in a 70-second span later in the quarter.

They kept taking turns, Harinski tying it off a feed from linemate Kyle Lewis with 10:48 to go, Harinski collecting the go-ahead goal at the 9:24 mark and Harinski striking again with 6:29 left to cap a 5-0 run and make it 11-9.

“Our midfield in the second half — the running, the gunning, the clearing, the fast break, something we practice every day,” Purdie said. “We’ve been giving them a challenge: You have to win every practice this week. If we win every practice, we win the game.”

While Lewis scored the game’s final goal with 4:17 remaining, the biggest offensive factor was arguably Steinbach. He was injured when the teams met on Feb. 24 and Lenoir-Rhyne earned a 7-3 victory.

“I think him being there made a big difference,” Bears defenseman Joey Masson said. “I don’t think it was anything we weren’t necessarily prepared for. They were just making plays, and sometimes good offense beats good defense and that happened a couple times.”

Yet as Adelphi showed all season, good defense — and a stellar goalie — can make up for other deficiencies. The Panthers entered the day with a .343 faceoff percentage and they were 8 of 26 on Sunday — though sophomore Stephen Bayer won the last two of the game, fine work for a player who hadn’t taken a draw in college until Adelphi turned to him out of necessity earlier this month.

The charismatic Renner played a significant role in helping the Panthers get this far, and he was especially inspired when the team watched video of the program’s last trip to the title game — a loss to Mercyhurst in 2011 early in Purdie’s coaching career.

Ending the title drought didn’t require playing overly emotional, but rather with precision. Adelphi’s defense played in concert in its zone and limited the Bears to just three shots in the final quarter.

“We thought coming into this that zone, especially with the heat, would work out best for us,” Renner said. “I think in the fourth quarter you saw that. We kind of played as one, just hunkered in. We talk about protecting the heart, which is just right in the middle. They did everything I asked of them and more, and you saw in the fourth quarter we really frustrated them.

Lenoir-Rhyne’s last serious chance to make a push came after it called timeout with 1:01 to play. But Adelphi’s Ryan Butler forced a turnover 10 seconds later, and the Panthers were able to run out nearly the balance of the clock before storming the field.

With that, the Bears’ hopes of a repeat were gone.

“It was such a different group than last year,” Paradine said. “We lost so much offensive firepower from last year’s team and brought in a lot of new guys. It took a little bit for them to jell, but they did. To be one of the last two teams playing is nothing to hang your head about.”

And to be the last one standing? Well, it’s something Purdie has waited for since he arrived at the Garden City, N.Y., school in 1986.

“Winning a national championship is just an awesome opportunity,” Purdie said. “I can’t even put into words how much joy I have.”

One might call it shear delight considering what the Panthers added to his to-do list Sunday.

“Time to go to the hairdresser,” he said with glee while departing his postgame press conference, all too ready to make good on one of the best bets of his life.