Lexington, Va. -- They had been through the ringer already, so what's one more ranked opponent?
For a team that played nearly half its games in 2018 against opponents rated in top 20 in NCAA Division III, not much at all.
Bolstered by dominant face-off play and lock-down defense, the fourth-seeded Lynchburg College men's lacrosse team bested 17th-ranked and third-seeded Roanoke for a 13-8 win over its rival to secure the program's seventh Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament Saturday night on Washington and Lee's Wilson Field.
Not bad for a group that started the season 0-4, albeit against teams all ranked in the top 15 in the country.
Saturday's was the team's second win in as many days in loser-out action against ranked opponents -- the Hornets defeated No. 12 Washington and Lee, 11-8, on the top seed's home field the night prior -- showing the toughness that came with the early-season gauntlet.
"This group has just been resilient," senior goalie CJ Santora (Tewksbury, Mass.) said. "Everything that's been thrown at us, we've just kept fighting, kept climbing to reach that goal."
The goal was to win the league, which has opened the door for loftier aspirations.
"Since we stepped on campus this fall, our first goal was to win an ODAC championship," Santora said. "I don't think anyone wasn't ready for this."
The Hornets did it in dominating fashion, and it began with the face-off differential. Junior face-off man Bo Delaney (Marstons Mills, Mass.) took every bout for LC, winning 18 of the 24 tilts at midfield to set the tone.
Delaney, normally part of a two-pronged attack, found himself shouldering a heavier load in recent games after his compatriot, junior Craig Koester (Wildwood, Mo.) was sidelined with injury.
"When Craig went down, I kind of went through a bit of a drought period," Delaney admitted.
But the junior came through when it counted most, though if you ask him, it was as much the rest of the Hornets' face-off team.
"The wings played amazing today," he said. "They were just getting all the ground balls, and everyone was doing their jobs."
Tied 5-5 at the half, LC used a third-quarter run to gain the advantage and shut the high-powered Roanoke attack out in the final 15 minutes of the game to secure the title.
"We brought our intensity up, not in the form of anger and heat but in staying with the game plan and making smart plays," Delaney said of the adjustments at halftime.
Lynchburg snatched the momentum early in the game on a score by Adams just 53 seconds into the game. Roanoke tied the game quickly, and the two teams remained knotted at a goal apiece until the 8:05 mark.
LC retook the lead at that point, when junior attackman Evan Lombardo (Franklin Park, Md.) scooped up a loose ball and found senior midfielder Colin McGuire (Odenton, Md.) for a goal that put LC ahead, 2-1. Roanoke scored with 1:20 remaining in the period to tie the game, 2-2, after a quarter of play.
RC made it a 3-0 run with a pair of man-up goals early in the second, but Lynchburg counter-punched with three of the next four goals, two by Robinson and one by freshman midfielder Riley Schmidt (Catonsville, Md.) as the teams ended the first half tied, 5-5.
Out of the break, Robinson put Lynchburg ahead for good with a goal at the 12:36 mark, assisted by Adams, and the two traded places 30 seconds later to double the lead. LC made it a 3-0 run just 16 seconds after that when Delaney scooped up the ground ball after the face-off and scored, unassisted. LC held the three-goal lead, trading goals with the Maroons for an 11-8 advantage headed into the final period.
Lynchburg's defense locked Roanoke down in the final stanza and added insurance in the form of goals by senior midfielder Eric Corella (Ashburn, Va.) and Lombardo.
The Hornets are now 8-2 since the start of April and by all accounts played their best lacrosse of the season over the weekend.
"I think we were just ready to go," Santora said. "I can't explain it, because it's the same guys."
For Lynchburg, Delaney, McGuire, junior defender Matt Meadows (Lynchburg, Va.), and Santora earned all-tournament team honors.
Lynchburg (12-8) will learn its road to the NCAA championship when the bracket is announced Sunday, May 6 at 9 p.m. on www.ncaa.com. The Hornets will be in the field for the seventh-straight year.
2018 ODAC MEN'S LACROSSE ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Drew Barnard, Washington and Lee
Hunter Brown, Hampden-Sydney
John Burke, Hampden-Sydney
Conn Curry, Roanoke
Ian Davies, Roanoke
Bo Delaney, Lynchburg
Jock Hodgson, Washington and Lee
Colin McGuire, Lynchburg
Matt Meadows, Lynchburg
CJ Santora, Lynchburg
IV Stucker, Roanoke