May 9, 2011

            The Middlebury College men’s lacrosse team will make its 14th consecutive and 15th overall appearance in the NCAA Division III Men's Lacrosse Tournament. The Panthers will host Castleton in a first-round game on Wednesday, May 11th.

            In a thrilling, back-and-forth NESCAC final, Tufts won its second straight conference title when junior Sean Kirwan scored with 1:55 remaining in overtime to give the Jumbos a 13-12 victory over Middlebury on Sunday afternoon at Bello Field.

            With Tufts trailing 12-11 in the final moments of regulation, senior Matt Witko scored with nine seconds on the clock to send the game to overtime. Both teams had possessions in the overtime period before Jumbo senior Alec Bialosky fought for a ground ball and put Tufts on offense. That led to Jumbo senior Ryan Molloy's pass to Kirwan in front of the cage, who scored the game-winner.

            Middlebury had trailed 10-6 entering the fourth quarter, but rallied to take leads of 11-10 and 12-11. They scored five straight goals to begin the period, tying the score at 10-10 on senior Alex Giammarco’s (Medfield, Mass.) goal with 3:49 on the clock, and then taking their first lead at 11-10 when senior Andrew Conner (Alexandria, Va.) scored at the 2:42 mark.

            Jumbo junior Kevin McCormick retaliated with his fourth of the game at 2:17 to knot it at 11-11. Middlebury senior co-captain David Hild (W. Hartford, Conn.) then scored his fourth goal of the game to give the Panthers a 12-11 lead with 1:01 remaining in regulation.

            The teams had gone back-and-forth for the entire first half. Tufts got out 2-0, with Molloy scoring and assisting. Middlebury netted the next two, including Hild's first of the game and 40th of the year for a 2-2 score at 3:07 of the first. The teams then traded the next six goals, with Middlebury rookie John McGoldrick (Norwalk, Conn.) tying the score at 5-5 with 5:45 remaining until halftime.

            The Jumbos were able to build some separation over the next 14 minutes of play. Beginning late in the second quarter and running until late in the third, they out-scored Middlebury 5-1 to take a 10-6 advantage on  Molloy's goal at 4:08 of the third. Molloy and McCormick both scored twice during the Tufts stretch.

            Conner started Middlebury's five-goal run at 11:31 of the fourth, and the seven-time NESCAC champions scored six goals overall in the period to extend the game.

            Molloy, who had scored with 0.4 seconds remaining in Tufts' 11-10 semifinal win over Bowdoin on Saturday, was the game-high scorer with three goals and three assists. Kirwan netted four goals, giving him 57 on the season. Jumbo rookie goalie Patton Watkins made 22 saves, giving him a NESCAC tournament record 54 saves overall.

            The biggest ground ball of the season by Bialosky was one of six that he scooped up, the same total as sophomore Sam Diss.

            Hild led Middlebury with five points, while McGoldrick, Conner and sophomore Mike Giordano (Ridgewood, N.J.) all finished with three. Sophomore Brian Foster (Medfield, Mass.) won 15 out of 22 face-offs for the Panthers, while junior defenseman Matt Rayner (Andover, Mass.) was one of three Middlebury players with four ground balls. Senior goalie Ryan Deane (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) stopped 12 shots.

            Middlebury finished with advantages of 58-48 in shots, 37-31 in ground balls and 17-10 in face-off victories.

            Middlebury outscored Trinity 5-2 in the fourth quarter to take an 11-10 victory over the Bantams in the semifinals.

            Trailing 6-5 at halftime, the Bantams scored all three goals in the third quarter to take an 8-6 lead over the Panthers. Sophomore Jeff Hebert had two of the tallies as Trinity gained its first lead of the contest.

            Middlebury scored a pair of goals in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, including Giammarco's tally at 11:59 which tied the score at 8-8. Just 38 seconds later, Trinity regained the lead 9-8 on a man-up goal by sophomore Rob Nogueras. However, the Panthers scored the next three to lead 11-9 on Conner's strike with 4:26 on the clock.

            The Bantams pulled within one (11-10) on a goal by Nick Shaheen at the 2:15 mark. As the clock wound down, Deane saved a challenging shot by Hebert to help preserve the win for the Panthers.

            Middlebury sophomore Erich Pfeffer (Glastonbury, Conn.) had scored three consecutive goals early as the Panthers took a 4-1 lead. The Bantams would net four of the remaining six goals scored in the second, pulling within 6-5 when junior long-stick middie Eric Phillips (Darien, CT) scored the second Trinity goal within 17 seconds at 1:34.

            The Panthers finished with a decisive 52-30 advantage in shots. Pfeffer's three led the way, while Conner and junior Tim Cahill (Glastonbury, Conn.) each had two. Sophomore Mike Giordano finished with a goal and two assists. Deane made six saves overall and led the Panthers with six ground balls. Sophomore Billy Chapman (Greenwich, Conn.) collected four.

            The start of the game was delayed two hours by lightning. Middlebury was two for three on man-up opportunities, and had a 13-12 edge in face-off wins. Trinity scored one man-up goal.
• Men’s lacrosse record: 12-4
• Up next: 5/11 vs. Castleton – TBA (NCAA), if win, 5/14 vs. TBA - TBA