Lamb leaves Cole with win, then men’s LAX loses in first round of NESCACs

35 seasons ago, in 1968, Renzie Lamb started coaching at Williams. At the time, the moon was still unmarked by human footprints, America was in the midst of Vietnam and it was the year of Super Bowl III.

This weekend, Renzie’s men’s lacrosse (8-6, 5-4 in the NESCAC) coaching career entered its final chapter. Williams split two games against Amherst, winning on Saturday at home 8-6 before losing in the first round of the NESCAC tournament in the land of the defectors, 12-9.

Sunday was a day of disappointment. Playing the same opponent a day after they had humiliated them on their home field, the Ephs didn’t play with the same fight and emotion they had harnessed in that impressive win. Instead, it was Amherst who dictated play, forcing the Ephmen to play catch-up, and the loss ends their season.

Lamb was upset, not at his team, but at the schedule makers. “I think it’s inconsiderate to the kids and how hard they worked,” Lamb said. “Look at this schedule. We played five games in eight days, while Amherst played four. That’s no excuse, they beat us fairly, but the season shouldn’t end with a scramble to get it all in time.”

The day before, Lamb had been all smiles. When he decided he would retire this year, his 35th coaching the Ephmen, he privately looked forward to going out with his last regular season game, at home, against the Defectors, and he was hoping for a result like the one he got.

“It’s magical,” Lamb said. “What better way could you think of [ending one’s career]? You could spend six months writing a scenario that you had no control over. But it couldn’t top this.”

On a cold, rainy, dark day on a slippery Cole Field, the defense’s inspired, physical play shut down the Amherst attack. Goalie Matt Rade ’04 and his defense shut out the Lord Jeffs in the first and fourth quarters. “The saves were easy today,” Rade said. He finished with 16 on the day. “The defense was just phenomenal, played really well in front of me.”

With the defense dominating, the offense found its rhythm, despite missing leading scorer Scott Wilbur ’04, who was taking the MCAT. Other players, notably Corey Whitbeck ’05, who had two goals and one assist, and Tim Pingree ’06, with one goal and one assist, provided a lift.

Andrew Layng ’03 had two goals, as he and Dicken Counts ’05 took over Wilbur’s minutes in midfield. Longstick midfield Rob Follansbee ’04 played an alert and impressive game as well, aiding tri-captain Guy Danella ’03 and the defense in their domination of the Jeffs.

More importantly, as it has been all year, the leadership and play of captains Danella, Pete Thomson ’03 and Chris Hayes ’03 was huge. Thomson and Hayes each found the back of the net in their final game on Cole field. Hayes’s goal was the play of the match. Taking a ball just outside the offensive zone, he took a run at his defender.

“I saw the guy thought I was going right,” Hayes said. “So I showed him that, then went left.” The move was so quick, so sharp, the defender could only gape as Hayes rifled the ball weak-handed into the upper right corner.

Following the game, Danella was very excited. “This is the best feeling in the world,” the captain said. “We’ve been waiting for one game where it all came together, and this was it.” When asked about the pressure of playing in the last game their coach would coach at home, Thomson simply stated, “Coach deserves it. I mean, 35 years? That’s incredible.”

Hayes, however, noted that it was a little bit more complicated. “There was a lot of pressure for that one,” the senior from Washington, D.C. said. “All last night, we had a bunch of alums stopping by our house, saying, ‘You can’t lose this one.’”

And it wasn’t just for Renzie that these seniors played. They also closed out their careers at home with a wonderful win against their archrival, and for the captains, Layng, Graeme Sanderson ’03 and Mike Bucher ’03, it was a moment to treasure.

The game on Saturday had followed two tough losses earlier in the week. Monday, against Tufts, Williams had let an opportunity slip through its fingers, falling to the Jumbos in a hard fought game that could have assured them home field advantage in the first round of the NESCAC tournament. Wilbur had three goals in the loss, but his little brother managed to show him up.

With Williams down 7-4 and time running out on the third period, Jeff Wilbur ’06 found himself moving towards goal, pushed to a tough angle. His team needing a goal, the first-year midfielder pulled some magic out of his helmet. He wrapped his stick around his head and shoot over his left shoulder into the lower left corner and give the Ephs hope. Unfortunately, his brother’s attempt to equalize with six ticks left on the clock was met with a fine save, by the Jumbos netminder, and Williams was handed a 7-6 defeat.

On Wednesday, defending national champions Middlebury paid a visit to Cole Field. The Ephs showed just how strong they could be, as they had the score at 5-4 at half time. Unfortunately, their focus left them in the second half, and despite Rade’s 19 saves, the Panthers also took one from the Ephs 11-6.

Both of those games were disappointing, but Danella thought that the Ephs took many positives from the disappointments. “All week we’ve been playing better, we’ve been gelling,” Danella, the Ephs’ emotional leader said. “We used what we were learning, never got down on ourselves, and it all came together for us [Saturday].”

Saturday, after the game, and the Gatorade shower, Renzie stepped back, took some time, and let it sink in. Smoking his cigar, he was a man of complete contentment. “I’m so proud of this team,” the coach said. “They’ve gone through a lot of adversity.”

While Sunday brought disappointment, no one could know that on Saturday. That day was about Renzie. But the image that will last longer is of the coach, comfortably ensconced on the bench on Cole Field, surrounded by his children and grandchildren, a line of former players, students and parents stretching out in front. Behind him, blue sky peeked through the gray ceiling, the rain dissipated and the breeze blew softer. It seemed as if even the elements were showing their appreciation and admiration for the man who was hanging up his whistle. It was, indeed, magical.