MEN'S LACROSSE FALLS IN NESCAC TITLE GAME - PANTHERS EARN NCAA BID
May 10, 2010
The Panther men's lacrosse team lost its first NESCAC Championship game by a score of 13-12 at Tufts on Sunday afternoon. The sixth-ranked Jumbos won their first title and will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. #16 Middlebury saw its hopes of an eighth NESCAC crown come up short, but the Panthers did earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers will host Goucher in a first-round match-up on Wednesday, May 12th at TBA. The winner of the game advances to the second round, where they will travel to Rensselaer for a game on Saturday, May 15th.
Tufts (16-1) scored six unanswered goals, including two each by juniors D.J. Hessler and Matt Witko, to battle back from a four-goal deficit and earn the win over Middlebury (11-5). Witko scored four goals overall and Hessler finished with two goals and two assists to lead the Jumbos, who had advanced to the final with an 11-10 comeback win against Wesleyan on Saturday. Junior David Hild (W. Hartford, Conn.) scored a game-high seven points with five goals and two assists to lead Middlebury.
Hild scored twice for Middlebury in the first period, including a goal with 23 seconds remaining that gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead after one. Tufts dominated early in the second quarter, scoring five goals in the first 3:26 to go up 7-3. Witko had two goals during the stretch. However, the momentum shifted dramatically towards Middlebury late in the second quarter. They ran off a five-goal run of their own, including two more by Hild, and the Panthers led 8-7 at halftime.
Middlebury extended its run to eight straight goals by continuing to control the game and scoring the first three goals of the second half. The Panthers led 11-7 on a tally by rookie Eric Pfeffer (Glastonbury, Conn.) with 5:17 remaining in the third. Hild scored and assisted the first two Panthers goals of the second half, and the seven-time conference champions looked poised to add to their trophy case.
In a game of dramatic shifts, Tufts stopped the run with Hessler's goal at 2:06 of the third that started their own game-winning rally. Back-to-back goals by Witko tied the score at 11-11 with 12:04 to go in the fourth. Then from behind the net, Hessler made a move to beat his defender and scored the go-ahead goal unassisted at the 9:23 mark. Jumbo senior Jamie Atkins scored an insurance goal at 8:53, which was much needed when sophomore Tim Cahill (Glastonbury, Conn.) converted a pass from Hild at 2:11 to pull the Panthers within one at 12-11. Tufts sophomore Nick Rhoads won the ensuing draw, Middlebury did not get another shot on net, and the Jumbos stormed the field to celebrate their first conference title.
Rhoads dominated the face-off circle for Tufts, winning 18 out of 27. Sophomores Sean Kirwan and Kevin McCormick both had two goals and an assist for the Jumbos. Senior Eytan Saperstein was immense on defense, grabbing eight ground balls, while senior Mike Droesch added four. Sophomore Steve Foglietta made eight saves in goal, with two in each period.
Cahill finished with three goals and two assists for Middlebury, who also received a pair of tallies from junior Andrew Conner (Alexandria, Va.). Junior goalie Ryan Deane (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) led the Panthers with six ground balls and made 13 saves.
Middlebury advanced to the NECAC Championship game with a 13-9 win over Bowdoin at Tufts. Senior Pete Smith (Wilton, Conn.) led the Panthers with two goals and three assists, while Deane was tremendous in goal with 16 saves, including nine in the fourth quarter.
Bowdoin came charging out of the gate with a 3-0 lead following a goal by sophomore Nathan Fritts at 10:12 of the opening period. Middlebury retaliated with the next three goals, tying the score at 3-3 on a tally by senior Chris Teves (Wellesley, Mass.) with 1:39 left in the first. Teves would score again with just 16 seconds remaining in the first half, capping a back-and-forth second quarter and giving the Panthers a 6-5 advantage that they would not relinquish.
The Polar Bears closed within 7-6 on a strike by junior Owen Smith at 10:14 of the third quarter. However, Middlebury scored three of the next four to open up some breathing room with a 10-7 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Tallies by Cahill and sophomore Matt Rayner (Andover, Mass.) in the middle of the third came just 13 seconds apart during that stretch.
Smith scored the first goal of the fourth to keep Bowdoin alive at 10-8, but Middlebury surged to a 13-8 margin with the next three goals. Hild scored two and the Panthers were in control as the clock wound down under six minutes. Bowdoin managed to add an Adam Tracy goal at 5:20, but the closing minutes of the game were played in a downpour and Middlebury maintained possession to drain the clock.
Hild added three goals to the Middlebury attack, while Cahill and Teves both finished with two goals and an assist. Rayner's four ground balls topped the Panthers, who add a 28-25 edge in that category as a team. Shots were even at 39-39.
Bowdoin dominated face-offs 16-8, including seven wins in nine attempts by sophomore Brendan Hughes. Tracy, Smith, and sophomore Keegan Mehlhorn had two goals each to pace the Polar Bears. Freshman Phillip Cuddeback scooped up four ground balls and sophomore Christopher Williamson made 10 saves for the Bears, who finished their season at 9-7.
• Men's lacrosse record: 11-5
• Up next: 5/12 vs. Goucher - TBA (NCAA First Round), if win, 5/15 @ Rensselaer