Moving Pillars: The Rise of Mercy Men's Lacrosse

PHOTO COURTESY OF MERCY ATHLETICS


When Dom Scorcia scored at 3:37 of the second overtime to lift Mercy to a 12-11 win over Le Moyne in a NCAA Division II semifinal, it set off a celebration for the ages at SUNY Purchase.

As part of a mob scene on the field, the players and coaches were joined by friends, family and alums who were also instrumental in the program’s gradual build from humble beginnings in 2010 to beating the Division II men’s lacrosse gold standard in the national semifinals.

“It was a slow build all the way up each year to get a little bit better, a little bit deeper,” Mercy head coach Jordan Levine said. “And now I think we’ve got a veteran group that’s been in playoff games, has [beaten] big playoff teams and is now competing for a national championship.

Levine called it one of the greatest days of his life. It was in stark contrast to the first practice in program history in 2010 where 32 freshmen met for the first time on a sloppy grass field.

“Man, Jordan, you’ve got your work cut out for you,” said one of his former Albany teammates who Levine brought along to help run practice that chilly afternoon.

It was the summer of 2008, at a lacrosse camp on Fire Island run by Levine and Luke D’Aquino, a former Albany teammate who is a teacher and assistant coach at Mount Sinai (N.Y.) High School where the seeds were planted for the Mercy lacrosse program.

Among the campers was the son of former Mercy College president Kimberly Cline who told Levine she was thinking of starting a men’s lacrosse team at the Dobbs Ferry school.

Levine wasn’t ready just yet to be the head coach — he was just 22, still playing professionally and getting his Master’s degree. He did, though, sign on as the Assistant Director of Athletics and the assistant men’s lacrosse coach, which allowed Levine to still pursue his dream and play in the MLL.

Mercy took its lumps in 2010 and got its first win over a top 10 team a year later against New York Tech.

In 2015, Mercy qualified for the conference tournament for the first time. Two years later, the Mavericks made the East Coast Conference championship game. And in 2019, they won their first conference tournament championship, made the NCAA tournament and won their first NCAA tournament game.

In 2020, Mercy got off to a hot 5-1 start, with the lone loss a one-goal defeat to Le Moyne, before the rest of their season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the Mavericks earned the No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and a bye until the quarterfinals. But a COVID-19 outbreak forced them to forfeit their tournament game.

The biggest regular season win in program history, which came early in the 2019 season, provided the belief that a national championship run was possible. It was a 12-7 victory over Le Moyne.

“They’ve been the gold standard of Division II; they’ve won six national championships, they don’t lose many games,” Levine said. “The fact we won that game in 2019 I think gave our guys a lot of confidence, like if we can beat them, we could play with anybody, really.”

A few months before that win, Jack Kipnes was on campus for his recruiting trip. Levine made his pitch.

“He said, ‘We’re not a top 10 program yet. We’re not gonna have the best facilities in the world, we’re not the upper echelon yet,’” Kipnes recalled. “‘But we have guys here that have talent, they have heart, a blue collar attitude, and we really believe that we’re on the cusp of something special.’”

That resonated with Kipnes, who was excited about helping build a program rather than go to an established powerhouse.

“To know that you can come in here and join a program that was already on the rise and have the opportunity in front of you to help make that next step was something that I jumped right on top of and was a special opportunity for me,” he said.







That regular season win over Le Moyne in 2019 was also a program first. The second win almost looked like it wouldn’t materialize Sunday.

The Mavericks trailed 11-10 inside the final minute of regulation when Levine called a timeout. What he saw from his players was unlike any other season in the program’s short history.

“There was such a sense of calm, where, 40 seconds left, we’re playing against one of the best defenses in the country. We’re down a goal, our season is on the line, and it was so calm, and guys were focused and just felt confident,” he said. “And it was a different feeling than in years past.”

Jack Gibbons scored the tying goal with 16 seconds left, and Scorcia won it in double overtime. The Mavericks avenged their lone loss of the regular season, but more importantly, booked the first national championship appearance for any Mercy College sport.

“That’s just on trend with everything that this program’s done the past few years is moving pillars out of the way to get ourselves to the top,” Kipnes said. “And to beat a team like that was just the cherry on top of all of our accomplishments.”

Among the 400 text messages Levine said he received in the aftermath of the historic win was one from Scott Marr, his former Albany coach.

“You need to appreciate and enjoy the ride,” was part of Marr’s message, because national championship games don’t happen often for most programs.

Their opponent Sunday, No. 1 Tampa, will also be playing for its first national title.

“I think they’ve been No. 1 in the country for the last two months. It’s not a coincidence that they’re 20-0,” Levine said. “I guess they don’t have the experience of the championship game, but they are one of the most talented Division II teams I’ve ever seen.”

The Mavericks will travel to East Hartford Friday morning and will hold a practice at Rentschler Field later that day ahead of Sunday’s Division II national title game.

Heeding Marr’s advice, Levine said he’ll encourage his team to soak everything in.

Kipnes knows he will.

“You have to take a moment to enjoy it because win or lose, this is one of the greatest moments of each of our lives on this team and it’s an opportunity a lot of guys in this country dream about,” the senior defender said. “The fact that we have this chance is something you’ve got to absorb because these are memories for a lifetime.”

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