Men's Lacrosse Set To Host NESCAC Tourney

May 3, 2006

Middlebury College, the five-time defending NESCAC Men's Lacrosse Champions, will look to add a sixth NESCAC title to its legacy this weekend when the Panthers host the 2006 NESCAC Men's Lacrosse Championship at Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium in Middlebury, Vt. Middlebury will have plenty of competition for the 2006 crown, as the remaining top seeds all advanced out of the first round. Top- seeded Middlebury will take on fourth-seeded Tufts in the first semifinal on Saturday, May 6, at 12:00 p.m., followed by third-seed Bowdoin clashing with second-seed Wesleyan at 3:00 p.m. The 2006 NESCAC Men's Lacrosse Championship will conclude on Sunday, May 7, at 12:00 p.m.

Middlebury (10-3, 8-1 NESCAC) earned the number-one seed on the final day of the regular season after a thrilling come-from-behind victory at Bates on Saturday, April 29. Down 8-4 in the fourth quarter, the Panthers scored five unanswered goals to overcome the Bobcats 9-8 and claim the top spot in the NESCAC standings outright. After dropping a 10-7 decision to Wesleyan to start the month of April, Middlebury has rattled off seven straight victories, two coming in overtime. Part of the reason behind the Panthers' success has been the return of a healthy sophomore attack Jim Cabrera (Greenwich, Conn.) to the lineup. The 2005 NESCAC Rookie of the Year missed two games near the end of March due to injury, both Middlebury losses. Over the past seven games, Cabrera has scored 20 of his team-leading 30 goals, along with three assists, as he currently leads the NESCAC in goals per game with 2.73 markers in 11 games. The Panthers boast the best offense in the conference this season, scoring on average 10.31 goals per game. Since the inception of tournament play in 2001, the Panthers have hosted the tournament each year, winning the five previous NESCAC crowns and posting a tournament record of 10-0.

Looking to spoil the weekend for Middlebury will be fourth-seeded Tufts (11-5, 5-4 NESCAC). It is the third appearance in the semifinals over the past four years for Tufts, after the Jumbos fell just short of the round of four last season. Tufts earned a trip to Middlebury this weekend with a 13-8 victory over Bates in the first round of the tournament on Sunday. The Jumbos have now won four of their last five outings, although Tufts could easily hold a five-game unbeaten streak if not for a narrow 4-3 loss to Wesleyan on April 26. While senior midfielder Mike O'Brien (Concord, Mass.) and junior attack Mark Warner (Wading River, N.Y.) are tied for the team lead in points with 27, rookie attack Clem McNally (Far Hills, N.J.) has been the offensive force as of late for the Jumbos. Of the 20 goals he has scored this season, McNally has tallied 18 of them in the last five games, leading Tufts in that category each night. The Jumbos' lone meeting with the Panthers this season came on April 12 in Middlebury, Vt., a 12-4 Middlebury victory. These two teams have met only once in the NESCAC tournament, the championship match on May 4, 2003. Top-seeded Middlebury defeated second-seeded Tufts for the 2003 title, 15-10.

Second-seeded Wesleyan (13-2, 7-2 NESCAC) enters the weekend having won nine of its last 10 outings, including a first-round victory over rival Williams, 12-5. The driving force behind the Cardinals' success this season has been defense, which has allowed a paltry 5.88 goals per game and given up more than seven goals twice, both losses. Wesleyan's stellar defense starts in the cage with junior goalkeeper Charlie Congleton (Groton, Mass.). A NESCAC All-Conference Second Team selection in 2005, Congleton is leading the nation in save percentage, stopping 72 percent of the shots he sees, while leading the NESCAC in goals against (5.57). As impressive as Congleton and the Wesleyan defense have been, the Cardinal offense has been taking care of business up front, led by senior midfielder Glenn Adams (Norwalk, Conn.) and sophomore attack Grayson Connors (Princeton Jct., N.J.). Adams, a two-time NESCAC All-Conference First Team honoree (2004, 2005), is second in the NESCAC in assists this season with 30, accumulating 12 goals along the way for a team-leading 42 points. Connors is leading his teammates with 34 goals in 2006, ranking him second in the NESCAC, and a total of 40 points, two behind Adams.

While Wesleyan will be eyeing a third consecutive trip to the championship game, third-seeded Bowdoin (11-4, 7-2 NESCAC) will be looking to knock the Cardinals from their perch. The Polar Bears made their way into the semifinals this year with a 12-8 win over Amherst in the first round. This is Bowdoin's first trip to the semifinals since the 2002 tournament, and the Polar Bears have not made it to the championship match since the inaugural tournament in 2001. As fate may have it, the last time the Polar Bears played for the NESCAC title came after a then-third-seed Bowdoin upended second-seed Wesleyan 12-9 in the 2001 semifinals, the lone meeting between the two squads in NESCAC tournament play. If history is to repeat itself, then Bowdoin will need to have an effective offensive attack, as the Polar Bears were limited to a season-low three goals during a 6-3 loss to Wesleyan on April 8 in Middletown, Conn. Senior attack Connor Fitzgerald (Hingham, Mass.) has been the catalyst for the Bowdoin offense this season, as the two-time NESCAC All-Conference selection leads the league in assists with 39 and points 58, averaging 3.87 points per game. Joining Fitzgerald on the attack are junior attack Matt Chadwick (Needham, Mass.) and senior midfielder Tom McKinley (San Francisco, Calif.), both of whom are tied for the team lead in goals this season with 24.

Semifinals - Saturday, May 6 at Middlebury No. 4 Tufts at No. 1 Middlebury - 12:00 p.m.
No. 3 Bowdoin vs. No. 2 Wesleyan - 3:00 p.m.

Championship - Sunday, May 7 at Middlebury Semifinal winners - 12:00 p.m.

-- courtesy NESCAC --