Men’s LAX splits two

For the second consecutive week, men’s lacrosse (7-3, 4-2 in the NESCAC), split their two conference games. It was a disappointing week for the team, as they opened slowly in both games. A rally against Connecticut College (7-4, 4-4) allowed them to leave New London with a good 11-10 win after their loss to Bowdoin. But in Middletown, the slow start against Wesleyan (9-3, 5-2) proved to be their undoing, and the Ephmen fell 19-10.

The story of the week was summed up by goaltender Matt Rade ’04: “We came out flat against both teams.”

Playing Wesleyan on Sunday, the Ephs allowed the first three goals of the game, and ended the period trailing 5-2. The teams would trade goals throughout the second and third quarters, with the three-goal margin still separating the teams as they entered the fourth quarter. Then Wesleyan exploded for seven goals, including the last five of the game, that put the once-close game out of reach, and securing the Little Three Title for the Owls.

“This was a turning point,” tri-captain Guy Danella ’03 said. “It was a let down, especially coming into this week. We’ll see where we go from here. I think the team will pick it up.”

Matt Barhight ’05 led the way for the Ephs, scoring three goals and tri-captain Pete Thomson ’03 added three assists.

Uninspiring starts have sadly been the hallmark of the Ephs this year, while second half comebacks have been necessary to overcome their weak starts. This makes life difficult for the Ephs, increasing the fatigue that accompanies having to constantly fight back. As Rade noted, “It’s easier to hang on to a lead, than to have to comeback.”

Weariness may also have something to do with the schedule. The weather had been very unkind to the Ephs until yesterday. With two early games cancelled by snow, an already short schedule has been condensed even more. In the midst of a stretch of seven games in 15 days, tired legs have been dragging on the Ephs. Danella wasn’t convinced, however, that it’s a physical toll. “It’s not really unique [to the Ephs],” Danella said. “It’s tougher for us, maybe, because we have all our big games here in the last four games [Wesleyan, Tufts, Middlebury and Amherst]. It’s toughest mentally, because you have to go from a letdown, a disappointment, into something positive the next day.”

More troubling, however, has been the inability of the offense to get on the board early. While the losses of attackmen Geoff McNally ’05 and Ward Bitter ’05 have been difficult to overcome, some help seems to be on the way. Corey Whitbeck, ’05 had three goals in the two games, bringing his season total to seven, and, with the budding emergence of classmate Barhight, who is now second on the team with 19 goals, should help to take some of the pressure of offensive stalwarts Chris Hayes ’03 and Scott Wilbur ’04.

The letdown against Wesleyan followed a phenomenal effort against Connecticut College last Wednesday. Goalie Rade and his defense held strong after allowing a 6-3 second quarter, until the offense finally found their rhythm. Offensive standouts were Whitbeck, who scored two goals, Wilbur, with two of his own, and especially Hayes.

Hayes, the senior midfielder from Washington, D.C. had six goals against the Camels; the Ephs needed every single one, as they hung on to win 11-10. Danella, friends with Hayes since his freshman year, was happy to see his fellow captain shine. “Chris is really the glue that holds our team together,” defenseman Danella said. “If it’s not scoring goals, it’s picking up groundballs, knocking kids over. I’ve never been surprised by what he’s done. He had some sick stuff, a reverse shot into the top corner. I was just really happy to see him explode.” The Ephs seemed to have put their lesson against Bowdoin to good use, and were able to fight all the way to the win.

Such a positive atmosphere dissipated with the result against Wesleyan. However, the Ephs must fight the emotional downturn that came from that game, as the regular season concludes for the Ephs this week. Two tough games, including ones against defending National Champion Middlebury and archrival Amherst will conclude the season for the Ephs. “This is going to be a telling week,” Rade said. “We’ve got to check our mettle. It’s time to prove that we’re as good as we think we are.” Opening face-off against the Panthers is at 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, while the Defectors return Saturday at 1 p.m. Both games will be played on Cole Field.

The Ephs played Tufts yesterday evening, concluding too late to be included in this edition.