May 17, 2010

The Panther men's lacrosse team advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament after a 16-8 victory over Rensselaer at East Campus Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Junior David Hild (W. Hartford, Conn.) had a huge game at attack for Middlebury, scoring five goals, while assisting on another. With the win, the Panthers (13-5) improve to 31-10 all-time in NCAA play and will travel to Tufts on Wednesday for an NCAA quarterfinal match-up. The Engineers making their third NCAA appearance, end their season at 14-3. The Panthers won an earlier match-up against Rensselaer at East Campus Stadium 9-6 on April 20th.

Middlebury opened up the first quarter firing, holding an early 7-3 advantage in shots, before senior Russell Banker (Greenwich, Conn.) notched his first goal of the season at 8:33 off a feed from senior Bart Witmer (Greenwich, Conn.). Less than two minutes later, Hild slid a five-hole shot past Engineer goalie James Manchester for a 2-0 lead with 6:45 left. Rensselaer got on the board as Andrew Miller collected a pass from Nick Billy for a lefty tally, netting the ball in the top corner at 5:38. Hild answered with a southpaw dodge to the middle of the field at 4:30, before Billy responded with a goal at 3:00, cutting the Panther advantage to 3-2 after the first quarter.

            The Panthers opened the second quarter with a 3-0 run on unassisted goals by senior Chris Teves (Wellesley, Mass.) and senior Pete Smith (Wilton, Conn.), as Hild's third score capped the spurt at 9:00 for a 6-2 lead. The Engineers responded quickly to Hild's goal, winning the ensuing faceoff as Andrew Liptak scored 11 seconds later, cutting the deficit to 6-3. Hild bookended the Liptak tally, with a dodge from behind the X, adding a hi-low fake on Manchester for his fourth score at 7:51. Junior Andrew Conner (Alexandria, Va.) added another for Middlebury at 6:42 before Paul DiLandro scored exactly one minute later on a transition goal, setting the score at 8-4 in favor of the Panthers. In the final minutes, Middlebury set up a methodical attack, eventually freeing sophomore Tim Cahill (Glastonbury, Conn.) as he snuck in from the left goal line extended with 22 seconds left for the score, taking a 9-4 advantage into the break.

            Both team exchanged goals to open the third before another 3-0 Panther spurt gave Middlebury a 13-5 lead. A rifle shot from rookie Eric Pfeffer (Glastonbury, Conn.) started the run at 10:58, as Hild notched his fifth goal off a Banker assist. Senior Matt Virtue (Rye, N.Y.) ended the run with a five-hole shot on Manchester at 8:30. Eric Valero ended the run at 4:18, collecting a groundball off a save by Panther junior goalie Ryan Deane (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) for a point blank tally, setting the score at 13-6. Banker added his second goal of the season with 1:10 remaining off a feed by Conner for a 14-6 lead after three quarters.

            A pair of Cahill goals, including a man-up tally, capped the Panther scoring in the fourth as Rensselaer's Billy added the final goal of the game.

            Hild led all scorers with five goals and one assist, as he has accounted for 13 goals in his last three games, 20 of his team-high 39 in the last five games. Cahill added a hat trick, while Conner added a pair of goals and two assists, as sophomore Alex Englert (Wellesley, Mass.) had a game-high six ground balls for Middlebury. Deane earned the win in net for the Panthers, stopping 11 shots, as junior reserve Charles Ward (Alexandria, Va.) played the final 3:34 and added a save.

Earlier in the week, Middlebury advanced to the second-round of the NCAA Tournament with a 10-6 win over Goucher.

            After 9:12 of scoreless play, Middlebury broke the draught as Hild scored his team-leading 32nd goal of the season with a bouncer from the left side at the 5:48 mark. Senior Jack Masur (Bethesda, Md.) cut from behind the goal and scored through the five hole to make it a 2-0 game 50 seconds later.

            Goucher came back with a pair of goals 1:10 apart early in the second quarter to tie the game at 2-2. Jacob Fratella scored with a rocket from the outside at 12:52, before Matt Lynch netted his 35th of the season from the right side.

Hild scored from left side at 10:04 to give Middlebury a 3-2 lead, before Lynch scored the equalizer at the 6:59 mark with a blast from the left side. The Panthers again took a one-goal lead when Masur found a cutting Cahill for his 20th of the year just 57 seconds later. The Gophers responded when Lynch notched his second of the game carrying the ball in from 40 yards out before scoring. The half ended in a 4-4 tie, with Middlebury opening the second half with a man-up opportunity.

            The Panthers went on a three-goal run in the third, taking a 7-4 lead with 3:45 remaining. Connor netted his 21st of the season with a feed from Smith at 7:41, before sophomore Peter Jennings (Wellesley, Mass.) won the ensuing face-off and drove to the goal for his second of the year. Witmer scored driving to the goal from the right side to end the three-goal run at the 3:45 mark. Kyle Boncaro netted his first of two goals for Goucher with 56 second left to make it a 7-5 game after three quarters.

            Middlebury extended its lead to 8-5 in the fourth when Teves made a spin move in front of the crease with 12:48 left. Goucher responded four minutes later when Boncaro scored his 40th goal of the season, cutting the Panther advantage to 8-6 with 8:44 remaining. Hild collected a hat trick on a power move at 4:31, backing his defender in before spinning to the crease for a shot between the legs of Goucher goalie Chris Stricklin. Middlebury capped the scoring at 10-6 on a cross-crease pass from Smith to Cahill during a man-up possession with 2:22 left in the game. The Gophers did get a few looks to close the gap, but three off target shots and a save by Deane preserved the win.

            Hild's hat trick paced Middlebury, as Cahill netted a pair of goals and Masur added a goal and an assist. Lynch led all scorers for Goucher with four points on a pair of goals and two assists, while Rory Averett added a goal and two assists, as Boncaro chipped in a pair of goals.

The Panthers held a decisive face-off advantage, winning 14 of 19 attempts, as rookie Brian Foster (Medfield, Mass.) won eight out of nine tries. Middlebury out-shot the Gophers 44-28 on the afternoon, forcing Strickland to make 14 saves while allowing 10 goals. Deane stopped 10 shots en route to the win in net for Middlebury.
• Men's lacrosse record: 13-5
• Up next: 5/19 @ Tufts (NCAA Quarterfinals), if win, 5/23 @ Cortland/R.I.T.