May 3, 2010

            The Middlebury men's lacrosse team advanced to the NESCAC semifinals after a 15-12 road win at third-seeded Amherst. The sixth-seeded Panthers will take on #4 Bowdoin next Saturday at 3:00 at Tufts, while #8 Wesleyan meets #2 Tufts in the other semifinal at 12:00. The championship game is slated for Sunday at noon.

            Amherst jumped out to an 8-2 lead over Middlebury, but the visiting Panthers used a 7-0 run to storm back for the victory on Gooding Field. Amherst ends its season at 7-7 (5-4 NESCAC), while Middlebury improves to 10-4 (5-4).

            Junior David Hild (W. Hartford, Conn.) and sophomore Tim Cahill (Glastonbury, Conn.) each had four goals for Middlebury, while Amherst was paced by four goals from Thomas McDonnell and four points from Evan Redwood. Sam Jakimo stopped 14 shots and played an exceptional first half, while junior Ryan Deane (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) made nine saves for the win.

            Amherst held a 3-0 lead by the time Middlebury took its first shot of the game, as the Jeffs looked like a completely different team from the one that suffered a 14-6 loss to the Panthers on Apr. 7. In a span of 3:32, Alex Fox, Redwood and Dan Routh found the back of the cage to give the hosts a 3-0 lead with 10:27 remaining in the opening quarter.

            Hild scored with 5:39 and 1:59 remaining in the first period to make it a 3-2 game, but the next five goals went to Amherst. Redwood, Will Reed and McDonnell each scored before five minutes had passed in the period, forcing Middlebury into a timeout. Reed's goal was particularly impressive, as he picked off a pass in Amherst's defensive end, carried the ball the length of the field, wound up and let loose a bullet from the right side.

            The Panther timeout did not affect McDonnell, who scored twice in a span of 21 seconds to give Amherst an 8-2 lead with 4:29 remaining in the first half. An unnecessary roughness penalty was called on Middlebury as the Jeffs' seventh goal was being scored, allowing them to come right back and capitalize on a man-up opportunity.

            Middlebury took over from there, scoring the game's next seven goals to take a 9-8 lead with 7:59 to play in the third quarter. After Hild and Cahill closed out the scoring in the first half, senior Pete Smith (Wilton, Conn.) kept his team going by beating Jakimo 1:45 into the third quarter. Smith scored twice during the 7-0 run, with junior Andrew Conner (Alexandria, Va.), sophomore Alex Englert (Wellesley, Mass.) and senior Chris Teves (Wellesley, Mass.) adding unassisted scores.

            Amherst tied the game at 9-9 with 6:19 to play in the third when McDonnell took a pass from Fox and recorded the 125th goal of his career, catching the ball right in front of the cage and calmly sneaking a shot past Deane. Cahill and Hild scored 37 seconds apart to give the Panthers an 11-9 lead after three quarters.

            Fox cut the deficit to one, but Middlebury answered with two goals of its own. Amherst's Danny Gold pushed right back to make it a 13-11 contest with 3:31 on the clock, but the Panthers again responded with a pair of goals, one of which was scored by Cahill. Rob Denious recorded the final goal of the afternoon with 22 seconds remaining, with Jeff Izzo picking up his third assist of the game.

            Middlebury finished off its regular season on Friday with a win, as the Panthers earned a 4-3 victory at Williams.

            Eph Stephen Vrla and Deane both had remarkable games in goal, as both finished with 19 saves. Michael Acierno opened the scoring with an underhand shot into the bottom right of the Panthers' net.

            Hild was able to respond for the Panthers fairly quickly, scoring with only 10:51 left in the quarter after curling around the left side of the Williams' net. The 1-1 tie held the rest of the period, though it was not without action, as the two goalies were called on to make 11 saves total in the period.

            Williams started the first half with intense pressure on the Middlebury net, as the Ephs fired six shots on goal in the quarter's first 3:19, when the sixth shot found its way into the back of the Panthers' net. Richard Reuter scored in the second quarter to make the score 2-1 in favor of the Ephs. Hild fed Smith on the crease for a man-up goal as Middlebury tied the game at 2-2.

            Williams was able to reopen its advantage almost two minutes later, when Cranshaw cut from the back right of the Middlebury net. Cranshaw dove and fired at the net - but the shot was turned away by Dean. However, sophomore Mike Ryan was in the right place at the right time, as he picked up the rebound in front of the net and scored with 5:51 to play in the half.  The teams looked as though they would enter the half with the Ephs up one, but Middlebury was able to score with three seconds left. An Eph turnover with about 30 seconds left allowed Middlebury to get the ball in transition, but senior Jeff Begin (Ipswich, Mass.) caught a pass from Smith and slung a bounce shot past Vrla with nearly no time on the clock to tie up the game 3-3 going into the half.

            The Panthers took the lead with 8:15 remaining in the fourth, when rookie Erich Pfeffer (Glastonbury, Conn.) cut from the left and spun by his Eph defender and propelled the ball from point-blank range into the top left corner of Vrla's net.

            The Ephs refused to fold down the stretch and found two particularly good opportunities to tie up the game. With 4:55 to play, sophomore Sam Hargrove fired a shot off of a pass from Cranshaw, but the ball hit the crossbar for the second time in the period when Dean nicked the shot on its way toward the net. Then, with two minutes to play, Acierno quick-sticked a pass from Ryan that was again turned away by Dean. That would prove the Ephs' last opportunity of the game; although they forced a Panther turnover with 40 seconds to play, the team gave the ball right back to their opponents, and Middlebury ran out the clock to claim the victory.

            Hild and Smith each had eight groundballs in the game as Deane finished with 19 saves.

• Men's lacrosse record: 10-4

• Up next: 5/8 vs. Bowdoin @ Tufts - 3:00 (NESCAC Semifinals)