The atmosphere at Cole Field on Saturday afternoon had all the elements for ideal athletic competition at Williams. Clear skies, a warm sun, emotional fans and most important of all, Amherst. The Lord Jeffs came to Williams to keep their last chance for playoffs alive and to partake in the purest rivalry in America. It took all of regulation and four overtimes for the Ephs to survive 12-11 in one of the best lacrosse games ever played in Williams history.
As expected, Williams entered the game ready for a spirited battle with the Lord Jeffs. Despite high emotion from the onset, the Ephs saved their best lacrosse for the fourth quarter and overtime periods, playing catch-up for most of regulation. Rob Adamo ’01 assisted Nick Martinelli ’00 in a score just over four minutes into the game for the 1-0 lead, but the Ephs’ performance would tail off after the early advantage. With 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter, attack leader John Moorhead ’00 scored on a fancy behind-the-back goal that tied the game at three.
The second quarter belonged to Amherst as they came out firing, scoring their fourth goal just 16 seconds into the period. Tri-captain John Servidea ’99 (21 saves) and the Williams defensive unit held the Amherst attack to five goals in the second before holding them to only three goals for the entire second half and four overtimes. Williams ended the first half down 8-5, but the team was unshaken by the task ahead, knowing that their best lacrosse of the season has traditionally been played in the second half.
A disappointing third quarter extended the Amherst lead to 10-5, and put the pressure on Williams to perform when it mattered most. And they did.
Heading into the fourth quarter with a five-goal deficit, the Ephs responded brilliantly by cranking in five goals within five minutes. Two goals by both John Moorhead and Weisser, and another timely score by Andy Jones ’00 tied the game for the first time since the opening minutes. The fourth quarter also sparked the Williams defense as they played with increased intensity and determination on loose balls while manning the Amherst attack. The unit of James Moorhead ’01, Dan Pozen ’99, and captains Peter Hall ’99 and Sam Webster ’99 gelled to virtually eliminate the Lord Jeff offensive threat.
Time of possession was a critical statistic that the Ephs took full advantage of in the fourth, as the ball spent the clear majority of the quarter in the hands of the Williams attack and midfield. Making spectacular efforts in facing off were Weisser and first-year Derek Chapman, while Weisser and junior Pepper Whitbeck collected an impressive share of ground balls to keep the ball in Eph hands.
“Defensive stops really helped us late in the game, and the whole team relied on each other to perform after getting behind early,” commented John Moorhead after the game. A heroic fourth quarter goal by Moorhead tied the game for the last time at 11 and sent the two teams into four four-minute overtime periods. Moorhead knew the group was ready for the challenge, “We had been in this type of situation before, and the combination of that confidence and a refusal to lose to Amherst fueled us from the beginning of the fourth quarter on.”
The Ephs dominated time of possession throughout each of the overtime periods, and it was this continued pressure on the Amherst defense that lead to the Williams triumph. An electrified crowd watched in awe as the two teams battled their way through each extra period. “We weren’t about to lose to Amherst on our home field, and after three disappointing quarters we stepped up our play in the fourth and in overtime,” said Webster. “We were impatient early but settled down and began to take control of the game as the end approached,” he added.
After numerous near-goals during overtime, Williams ended the extended period with a shot off the stick of Geoff Cohane ’00 with 59 seconds left to play in the fourth overtime. Directly in front of the net, Cohane caught and fired in textbook manner, ending the struggle that had fans cheering all afternoon. It was a clutch performance by Cohane that ended the season for the Lord Jeffs. The team and the crowd erupted into celebration and the final score stood 12-11 in favor of the Ephs. Once again, Williams’ late game heroics exemplified the resilience of this year’s team. “It was the most fun I have ever had in winning a lacrosse game,” said Weisser in perfect summary of the thrill of this victory.
Williams played only one other game during the week, a 16-7 loss at home to a strong Middlebury Panthers club that came to Williams sporting a 10-1 record. The Williams-Middlebury lacrosse rivalry continued with intense play on the field and passionate excitement in the stands.
Despite an early first quarter unassisted goal by Weisser, the 1-0 Williams lead was quickly outdone as Middlebury went on to score five goals in the first period. Time of possession for Middlebury allowed them to keep the pressure on the Williams defense and Servidea in the net. “We came into the game feeling confident that we could compete with Middlebury,” said Moorhead, “but we did not possess the ball enough to be successful, and our clearing and riding really hurt us.” The damage continued into the second quarter and Middlebury took a 10-3 lead into the halftime break.
A strong showing by both the Williams and Middlebury student body lead to tension in the stands, with cordial cheering turned to verbal conflicts as fans displayed their love for their teams. Keeping their hopes high for the second half, the Williams fans witnessed an improved four-goal effort in the third quarter that appeared to be the beginning of a comeback by the Ephs. Spirited fan Glenn Prichett ’00 commented on the character of the Williams club. “No matter what the deficit or momentum in the game, Williams continues to fight and give all they have on the field,” Prichett said. This character was demonstrated by the ground ball efforts of Webster, the passing precision of Adamo, and the shot-stopping performance of Servidea (28 saves). However, Middlebury’s possession proved too costly for the Ephs, as they took an impressive 52 shots on goal compared to 25 shots by the Ephmen.
The Ephs play their last regular season game tomorrow at Union in preparation for a birth in the ECAC tournament. Well-played lacrosse in the next week should provide more stellar highlights for the team as they continue on in hope of capturing the ECAC tournament title.