Pearce wins coaching debut for Ithaca lacrosse

ITHACA, N.Y. — Chestertown native Tommy Pearce was a winner in his first game as Ithaca College’s men’s lacrosse head coach on Sunday,  12-10, against St. John Fisher.

The Bombers closed the game with three unanswered goals over the final 12 minutes and change to rally from a 10-9 deficit at the end of the third quarter.

Graduate student Cole Corrigan of Towson (Loyola Blakefield High School), who played three years in goal at Washington College after transferring from Goucher, also was a winner in his Ithaca debut. He was credited with 11 saves to offset St. John Fisher’s 45-36 advantage in shots.

Pearce and Corrigan will return to Chestertown in two and a half weeks when Washington hosts Ithaca on Friday night, March 15.

Pearce succeeds Jeff Long (362-182), who retired after 36 years as Ithaca’s head coach.

In a July 6 news release announcing Pearce’s hiring, Associate Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Susan Bassett said Pearce emerged from a national search as “the ideal candidate.”

“His experience as a player and coach in a championship culture at Gettysburg and his proven track record of success in building two programs from scratch to competitive success, earned our absolute confidence in his ability to build on the legacy established in IC men’s lacrosse,” Bassett said in the news release.

Beyond that, Bassett said Pearce’s “commitment to student-athlete success in every aspect of their educational experience is prominent in his philosophy of coaching.”

Pearce,  who spent the past five seasons (four playable seasons) as the head coach at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, stepped into a program at Ithaca that finished 7-8 in 2023 after a 7-2 start.

A six-game losing streak to end the season put the South Hill squad in a hole they couldn’t recover from as they missed out on the Liberty League tournament for the second year in a row.

In a preseason poll of conference head coaches,  Rochester Institute of Technology, the 11-time defending Liberty League champion, was heavily favored  to finish atop the standings again in 2024.

Ithaca was next-to-last in the poll.

RIT received seven of the eight first-place votes (coaches cannot vote for their own team) for a total of 49 points.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was second with 42 points and the other first-place vote.

Union College and St. Lawrence University rounded out the top four teams with 37 and 32 points, respectively.

Clarkson (22) was fifth, followed by Skidmore (20), Ithaca (15) and Vassar (7). 

Pearce spent the past five seasons (four playable seasons) as the head coach at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. He was the first coach there as Allegheny officially began competition in 2020.

The Gators went from one win in that inaugural season to eight in 2023, when they also earned the No. 4 seed in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference tournament.

Prior to starting the program at Allegheny, Pearce was tasked with revitalizing the program at Frostburg State in 2009 when the university reinstated men’s lacrosse after a 30-year lapse.

Frostburg went 85-62 under Pearce and qualified for the Capital Athletic Conference tournament for six years in a row (2013-18).

Frostburg returned to the field in 2011 and within two years, won more than 10 games, including a program record of 16 in 2015.

Pearce was the conference Coach of the Year in 2013, when the Bobcats qualified for the CAC tournament for the first time, and in 2015, when they opened the season with a 14-game winning streak and climbed to 17th in the USILA national poll.

Pearce began his collegiate coaching career with a four-year stint (2005-09) as an assistant at alma mater Gettysburg. The Bullets won the Centennial Conference title and advanced to the NCAA Division III Tournament in each of those four seasons, including a national runner-up finish in 2009.

The Bullets were a combined 66-12 with Pearce on the staff, and were routinely ranked in the top five of the USILA poll.

Pearce, who was named the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association outstanding assistant coach of the year in 2008, helped recruit and coach a total of 20 All-Americans at Gettysburg.

In his four years as a player at Gettysburg (1998-2001), Pearce was a three-time All-Centennial Conference midfielder, a two-time All-American and the Centennial Conference Player of the Year in 2001.

He would be inducted into the Gettysburg Athletic Hall of Fame in 2020 and was selected to the Centennial Conference Silver Anniversary Team in 2018.

Pearce was a team captain in his junior and senior seasons; he helped the Bullets to a 54-12 overall record during his four-year career.

He earned a B.A. in English from Gettysburg in 2001 and a master’s degree in exercise science and physical education from McDaniel in 2009.

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