Men’s lax ekes past Cardinals 10-9

Men’s lacrosse (6-5, 4-3 in the NESCAC) used some mid-week momentum to help them edge out a 10-9 win in a crucial game against Wesleyan (8-5, 3-4) at Cole Field on Saturday. This huge victory puts the Ephs in position to secure home field advantage in the first round of the NESCAC playoffs if they can beat archrival Amherst (6-6, 3-4) next weekend.

Saturday was a beautiful day for lacrosse. A large crowd was on hand to support the Ephs in what everyone knew was the most important game of the year, and the fans certainly did not leave disappointed.

Wesleyan opened the scoring first, only to be answered by an Eph goal 10 seconds later off a shot by Paul Derosa ’04, who led the Ephs with four goals on the afternoon.

The entire first period went back and forth, but Williams managed to secure a 5-4 lead at the end of the period. Some great defensive play in the second held Wesleyan to only one goal, and a couple more Derosa goals helped the Ephs take a 7-5 lead into halftime.

The third quarter proved to be a defensive battle. The Williams longsticks again held Wesleyan to only one goal. The Eph offensive attack managed to score only two goals, but it was enough to take a 9-6 lead into the final period.

The Cardinals did not let the Ephs get too comfortable in the fourth, however – Wesleyan scored three goals in the final period. Thankfully, though, Matt Barhight ’05 scored the lone Eph goal at the 8:33 mark to preserve the lead.

With the Ephs leading 10-9 and time winding down, the Cardinals had a few last-ditch chances at tying the game, but the Williams defensive stand proved too strong, and a victorious roar came from the Cole Field faithful as the buzzer sounded.

“We really picked up the effort this week,” said defenseman Matt Kelleher ’02. “The underclassmen have been making some great contributions. If we continue this level of play on both sides of the ball, I really like our chances against Middlebury and Amherst.”

Going into last Wednesday’s game against Connecticut College (3-8, 1-6), the Ephs were in a very tough position. Having lost three straight games, a loss to another conference team could mean early elimination from post-season play. A win, however, would keep them in the race for the NESCAC playoffs, as well as keep hopes alive for a division title and a first round playoff home game.

The Ephs had trouble scoring during much of the first period against the Camels until Barhight caught a pass from Corey Whitbeck ’05 and fired a shot past the Conn. College goalie, Tyler Volpe, with three minutes remaining in the period.

Thirty seconds later, Barhight was on the other end of the assist, helping dish the ball to Pete Thomson ’03 who scored to put the Ephs ahead 2-1 at the end of the first. DeRosa opened the second period by picking up a loose ball and scoring a goal within a minute.

The Ephs appeared to be rolling, but some mistakes and turnovers allowed the Camel defense to hold the Ephs scoreless for the remainder of the half, and take a 3-3 tie into halftime.

The Ephs came out of the half on fire, and completely dominated the third quarter. Scott Wilbur ’04, Graeme Sanderson ’03, DeRosa and John Whitbeck ’05 all scored and helped the Ephs build a 7-3 lead heading into the final period.

The Ephs allowed only two goals in the final period, thanks in large part to Dicken Counts ’05 owning his opponent on fourth-quarter face-offs as well as a consistent offensive attack and some great goalkeeping by Matt Rade ’04.

Connecticut must have known they didn’t stand a chance in the fourth quarter when co- captain Blair Bartlett ’02 picked up a ball, glided down the center of the field and fired a shot past a stunned Volpe.

To those who don’t know how rare this is, it is the equivalent of a goalie scoring in hockey, or an offensive lineman scoring in football. It was truly an awesome play, and nailed the coffin shut on the staggering Camels.

The 9-5 victory gave the Ephs a much needed pick-me-up heading into Saturday’s contest against Wesleyan.

The Ephs will travel to Vermont on Wednesday to take on the Middlebury Panthers (10-1, 6-1), the second-ranked team in the nation. The last game of the regular season will be played away at Amherst next Saturday.