The 2008 season was one long push to the playoffs for the Muhlenberg men’s lacrosse team, which received national acclaim in only its sixth varsity season.
After dropping their first three Centennial Conference
games, the Mules knew they could not afford another loss if they were to earn their first playoff berth. Starting with a 15-5 home win against Swarthmore and ending with a dramatic 9-8 victory at Ursinus almost a month later, Muhlenberg won eight in a row (five in the CC) to qualify for the playoffs in one of the strongest conferences in Division III.
A three-time All-CC pick, Farris set school records for hat tricks in a career (18) and season (7).
The run came to an end with a 13-3 loss to third-ranked Gettysburg in the CC semifinals. The Mules finished their best season ever with a record of 10-5, setting a school record for wins.
All three CC losses at the start of the season came to teams ranked in the top 10 in Division III – teams that would eventually earn bids to the NCAA Tournament.
In the first league game of the season, Muhlenberg threw a scare into eighth-ranked Washington, a team that had won the previous five meetings by an average of more than nine
goals. The Mules led 8-4 at halftime, then hung tough after the Shoremen scored the first five goals of the third quarter. Although Washington wound up winning, 12-11 in
overtime, Muhlenberg served notice that it could play with the best teams in the country.
Road losses to Gettysburg and Haverford followed, but when the Mules
returned home for the last Saturday in March they began churning out one program milestone after another: their first home win against Swarthmore, their first win at Franklin & Marshall (9-8 in triple overtime), their first back-to-back
CC wins, their first win against Dickinson (9-4) since the reinstatement of men’s lacrosse as a varsity sport, their first four-win CC season (after a 10-7 defeat of McDaniel), their first five-game winning streak (after a 14-8 win against FDU-Florham).
Martin led the Mules with 41 ground balls and finished his career second on the all-time list with 183 faceoffs won.
With each milestone and triumph, Muhlenberg gained in confidence, and others began to take notice. The Mules extended their winning streak to six by doubling up Montclair State, 8-4, on Senior Night, and when the national poll came out the following week, Muhlenberg was listed as receiving votes.
A comfortable 17-6 win against Moravian in the home finale set the stage for the last-game of the regular season: a showdown at Ursinus for the fourth and final CC playoff spot. In a thrilling back-and-forth contest, Muhlenberg scored twice in the fourth quarter to break a 7-all tie and held on for a 9-8 win.
Although that would be the last win of the season, the program milestones kept coming. Senior midfielder Kyle Farris and junior defenseman John DeLuca were voted to the All-CC first team, becoming the Mules’ first two first-team CC selections, and later they became the program’s first All-Americans, both earning honorable mention.
Farris, who scored the game-winning goal in the Ursinus game, ended his
career as Muhlenberg’s leader with 101 goals, including a school-record 36 in 2008. DeLuca led a defense that ranked fourth in the CC in goals-against average and also emerged as a threat on offense with his long runs down the field, scoring six goals.
Norton tied a 26-year-old school record with five assists in the triple-overtime win at Franklin & Marshall.
Senior Mickey Norton earned All-CC honorable mention after
handing out 24 assists. He ended up as the Mules’ all-time scoring leader with 123 points.
Freshman Brent Siebold had an excellent first season, scoring 23 goals. Juniors Andrew Lolley (20) and Nick Fletcher (13), senior Mike Brown (12) and sophomore Paul Munday (7) all posted career highs in goals for an offense that averaged 9.73 goals per game – almost 1.5 more than the 2007 team did.
Seniors Tim Martin, Tim Dwyre and Josh Mosberg all had fine years as situational midfielders. Martin, senior Luke LaMarca and junior Dan Dugan combined to win 57.5 percent of their faceoffs.
Sophomores Matthew Schroeder and Ivan Brown and senior Luke Silverman joined DeLuca on the starting defense, while sophomore T.J. Dugan and freshman Tom Brant contributed as longstick midfielders.
Sophomore Andrew Bell started every game in goal for the second year in a row, raising his save percentage from .521 to .542.