Men's Lacrosse To Host NESCAC Championship - Watch Live!

April 28, 2009

The Middlebury men's lacrosse team will host the 2009 NESCAC Championship on May 2nd and 3rd. All games will be played on Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium, the College's new FieldTurf surface. Middlebury will meet Wesleyan in the first semifinal at noon on Saturday, while Bowdoin takes on Tufts at 3:00 p.m. The winners meet for the NESCAC Championship with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, May 3rd at noon.

Middlebury (13-1, 8-1 NESCAC) locked up the number-one seed well before the end of the regular season, but it wasn't an easy task. The Panthers edged Trinity 12-11 on April 18 when senior midfielder Mike Stone (Boston, Mass.), the 2008 NESCAC Player of the Year, buried the game-winner with less than a minute to play to guarantee his club home field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. Since a March 14 loss at Wesleyan by a slim 8-7 score - the Panthers' only setback so far this season - Middlebury has gone on to win its last 12 outings, however eight of those 12 victories were by a margin of three goals or less. After closing out the conference slate on Friday with a 13-11 come-from-behind win over Williams, the Panthers cruised past eighth-seeded Amherst in the quarterfinals by a 16-7 score. The NESCAC Men's Lacrosse Championship has been synonymous with Middlebury over the years with seven league titles to its credit (2001-07). The Panthers' run of consecutive championships came to an end last spring though when sixth-seeded Williams derailed the Middlebury freight train in the semifinals with an 11-10 overtime victory, as the Ephs went on to win their first NESCAC title. Middlebury looks to return to Sunday's championship this year with the support of an offensive attack that ranks second in the league in scoring at 12.86 goals per game, a figure that is 2.5 goals higher than last year's numbers, while also converting a conference-best .467 percent of its man-up opportunities. Pacing the Middlebury attack for the second year in a row is Stone, as his career-best 48 goals (3.43 per game) are currently in a three-way tie for the lead in the league this season. Stone has also contributed 10 assists for 58 points (T-2nd NESCAC) along with four man-up tallies, five game-winners, and 36 ground balls. Junior attacker Pete Smith (Wilton, Conn.) is one of the top setup men in the NESCAC this season with 35 assists, second among all players. Smith is just behind Stone on the Middlebury stat sheet with 47 points (12-35-47) while scooping up 58 grounders.

Saturday's first semifinal will feature a pair of championship rivals when Middlebury clashes with fourth-seeded Wesleyan (12-3, 6-3 NESCAC). The Cardinals and the Panthers have plenty of history between them in tournament play, having faced each other in four consecutive finals from 2004 through 2007 with Wesleyan falling just short each time in its quest for the program's first NESCAC title. The closest the Cardinals ever came to winning the championship occurred in 2006, a 10-9 loss at Middlebury. In a contest that looked destined for overtime, Middlebury defender Gabe Wood '06 sprinted the length of the field and broke a 9-9 tie by scoring the championship-clinching goal as time expired, sending the Panther bench into bedlam and the Cardinals home heartbroken. During last year's tournament, Wesleyan watched as Middlebury lost its first-ever tournament contest only to succumb to Bowdoin in the second semifinal, 11-9. This spring, the Cardinals have been the only team to defeat the Panthers with the aforementioned 8-7 win on March 14 in Middletown, Conn. It marked the third time in the last four years that Wesleyan had earned a victory over Middlebury during the regular season. The Cardinals head into the weekend with wins in six of their last seven games, most recently overcoming Connecticut College on Friday, 10-5, and Williams on Sunday in the quarterfinals, 11-5. Statistically, Wesleyan is sixth in the conference in goals per game at 10.2 while the defense, a hallmark of Cardinal teams in recent years, has been stellar with a league-leading 5.93 goals against average and an .836 penalty killing percent. It all starts in net with senior goalkeeper Mike Borrero (Bayport, N.Y.). At 12-3 this season, Borrero heads up NESCAC netminders with a 5.91 goals against average while ranking fourth in save percentage at .587. Supporting Borrero has been classmate Spike Malangone (Lake Grove, N.Y.), a two-time All-NESCAC First Team honoree. Malangone is the Cardinals toughest defender, causing 57 turnovers while scooping up 60 ground balls yet only committing one penalty this year.

Second-seeded Bowdoin (10-5, 6-3 NESCAC) enters the weekend riding a three-game winning streak after the Polar Bears edged Trinity 11-8 in the quarterfinals on Sunday. Bowdoin got off to an impressive 7-1 start before faltering in its next four games, three of which were one-goal losses suffered at the hands of Middlebury (14-13), Colby (9-8 OT) and non-conference Endicott (10-9). In danger of missing out on an opportunity to host a first round contest, the Polar Bears regrouped during the final week of the regular season and captured the second seed with a win over their semifinal opponent - Tufts - on Friday evening, 11-7. Bowdoin made it all the way to the championship contest a year ago for the first time since the inaugural 2001 tournament and finished as the runner-up to Williams, falling 9-4. The Polar Bears are in the middle of the conference pack on offense this year with an attack that ranks fifth in goals per game at 10.47, as Bowdoin is part of a group of four teams that have scored roughly 10 goals per contest. The defense, meanwhile, owns an 8.12 goals against average (3rd NESCAC) and a save percentage of .597 (1st). Sophomore goalkeeper Jake McCampbell (Medfield, Mass.) has been a key component for the Polar Bears this season, going 8-5 in net with a 7.99 goals against average and a league-leading .600 save percentage. Up front, senior Harry Ashforth (Ridgefield, Conn.) currently paces a balanced scoring attack for Bowdoin with a team-high 33 points on 16 goals and 17 assists. Senior midfielder Cullen Winkler (Milton, Mass.), an All-Conference Second Team selection in 2008, leads his squad with 20 tallies, as a total of nine Polar Bears have reached double-figures in goal scoring this season.

Looking to avenge the 11-7 loss at Bowdoin on the final day of the regular season will be third-seeded Tufts (12-3, 6-3 NESCAC). The Jumbos were in the driver's seat in the conference standings midway through the 2009 campaign, holding a 5-0 record in league play and sporting an 8-0 overall mark. However, a 1-3 performance against NESCAC foes - with all three losses coming on the road - put the hopes of earning the number-one seed for the second time in three years just out of reach. The Jumbos made an early exit from last year's championship, falling to eventual champion Williams 14-6 at home in the first round. This year, Tufts took care of business in the quarterfinals with a 12-8 victory against Colby. The Jumbos boast the most potent offense in the conference heading into the weekend, scoring on average 14.67 goals per game and having been held to less than 12 goals on only three occasions - all losses. Tufts is also tops in man-up goals per game this season at just over two per contest while converting on .383 percent of its chances, good enough for second in the NESCAC. Leading the league while also ranking among the top players in the nation in scoring this spring is sophomore sensation D.J. Hessler (Monkton, Md.). Hessler has accumulated a conference-best 76 points, averaging 5.07 per game, on 36 goals and 40 assists through 15 games this season. He tied the Jumbos' single-season scoring mark during the quarterfinals with three goals and two assists in the win over Colby. Not to be lost in Hessler's shadow are the performances of senior Clem McNally (Far Hills, N.J.) and sophomore Ryan Molloy (Setauket, N.J.). The tandem trail Hessler on the Tufts stat sheet with McNally enjoying a career year with 48 goals and 10 assists for 58 points (T-2nd NESCAC) while Molloy has 38 goals and 17 assists for 55 points (T-4th). Of the Jumbos 220 tallies this season, 122 have come from the combination of Hessler, McNally and Molloy. The trio hope to lead their squad to the final for the first time since 2003. Tufts and Bowdoin have met only twice in tournament play, both times during the first round. The Polar Bears claimed victory in the 2001 tournament with an 11-6 win before the Jumbos edged the Polar Bears 14-13 in the 2003 playoffs.

Quarterfinals - Sunday, April 26 at Higher Seeds
at No. 1 Middlebury 16, No. 8 Amherst 7
at No. 2 Bowdoin 11, No. 7 Trinity 8
at No. 3 Tufts 12, No. 6 Colby 8
at No. 4 Wesleyan 11, No. 5 Williams 5

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

Championship - Sunday, May 3 at Middlebury
Semifinal Winners - 12:00 p.m.

You can watch all three games live via webcast at: http://d3cast.com/index.php

-- courtesy NESCAC --