Men’s lax advances to semis

After an exciting overtime win against Bowdoin on Saturday, men’s lacrosse (8-5, 4-5 in the NESCAC) entered the post-season and crushed Tufts (9-6, 6-3) on Sunday, advancing to the semifinals of the conference tournament.

“We were 1-4 in the league to start the season, and our prospects of making the playoffs seemed bleak,” Head Coach George McCormack said. “With great effort and hustle on the field, along with solid leadership from our upperclassmen as well as some of our first-years, the team managed to turn the season around.”

Sunday’s game began well enough for the Jumbos, who by the end of the first period had a one-point lead on the Ephs with a 3-2 score. Tufts outshot Williams 13-5 in the first period.

However, in the second period, rookie David Hawley ’11 scored three goals in a row, and with one more unanswered goal, Williams took control of the game, 6-3, with six minutes left in the quarter.

At the start of the second half, Bryan Wrapp ’10 continued the onslaught, scoring the first goal. He was quickly followed by Michael Vrla ’08 and Kevin Connolly ’09, to bring the score to 9-4 in favor of the Ephs. Tufts tried to get back on the board, netting one with a minute left in the quarter.

The nail in the coffin for Tufts came in the final period, when the Ephs scored five times in three minutes, upping the score to the final tally of 14-6.

The win against the Jumbos marked the Ephs’ fourth consecutive victory and solidified the turn-around the team has experienced this season. “We started getting solid defensive play, consistency on face-offs, very good goal-tending and unselfish, opportunistic play on offense [toward the end of the season],” McCormack said.

Williams faced a challenge on Saturday as Bowdoin attempted to end Williams’ post-season dreams. However, the Ephs’ strong play helped them edge the Polar Bears 8-7 and qualify for the NESCAC tournament.

The game got underway with the first goal scored by Vrla not more than three minutes into the opening period. Bowdoin’s Owen Smith responded by the end of the quarter.
At the start of the second period Bowdoin pulled ahead and earned a 3-1 lead, but two consecutive goals by Vrla brought the Ephs to a 3-3 tie. The game shifted back-and-forth until the final period.

In the fourth quarter with 9:47 to play Bowdoin took the lead. But Richard Reuter ’10 kept the Ephs in by tying the score a minute later.

From there, play progressed aggressively as both teams tried to break the tie. Polar Bear Adam Tracy put Bowdoin back on top with slightly over a minute left to play, but Reuter quickly answered to make the score 7-7 and push the game into overtime.

Overtime play grew increasingly more tense for both teams before Nick Fersen ’08 finally netted the game-winner. Williams outshot Bowdoin, 37-27 in the contest. Michael Gerbush ’09, last week’s NESCAC Player of the Week, recorded 13 saves on the game.

This weekend the Ephs will travel to Middlebury to take on the top-seeded Panthers in the NESCAC semifinals. Williams has its work cut out for them as Middlebury has won the last seven conference titles. “The playoffs are exciting and we feel very fortunate to be in the semifinals for the second year in a row,” McCormack said. “We know our opponents and they know us. There are no secrets at this time of year. The team that can execute its own offensive and defensive game plans and make the least amount of critical errors will be the team that wins the tournament.”