Men’s lacrosse (7-5, 5-3 in the NESCAC) claimed the Little Three title for the first time in 10 years in a suspense-filled 9-5 win over Wesleyan (10-3, 5-3) last Saturday. Though the Cardinals seemed to match the Ephs goal-for-goal in the first two quarters, the men broke the game with three consecutive goals in a third quarter shutout. With this most recent victory, the team extends its winning streak to six and moves up two places, to fourth, in the NESCAC rankings.
Both teams had high stakes going into the Saturday game. Since they took down the Jeffs the week before, the Cardinals found that only the Ephs stood between them and Little Three supremacy. Wesleyan had also claimed six of the past 10 Little Three titles. After winning only one of the six games they played in March, the Ephs earned five decisive victories over such rivals as the Jeffs and the Polar Bears; they looked to this game against Wesleyan to carry their momentum into the postseason.
Wesleyan quickly took control from the start by scoring the first goal at 2:54. Fifty seconds later, Tommy Murray ’11, assisted by Sam Hargrove ’12, responded with a goal of his own, and after that, the two teams engaged in aggressive back-and-forth action for 10 minutes. It soon became apparent that the Cardinals were dominating the first quarter offense, making 10 attempts at goal over the Ephs’ two. Williams also let up seven turnovers in that period. But the men’s defense held strong until the Cardinals took the lead once again with 1:16 remaining in the quarter. Nevertheless, Corey Jacobs ’11 responded just seven seconds after the Wesleyan goal to tie up the game at 2-2.
In the second quarter, the Ephs took their offensive efforts to the next level as they claimed a one-point lead over the Cardinals for the first time in the game. The quarter was scoreless for over 14 minutes, with both teams playing top defense and attacking the goal continuously. Though Williams made inroads in its offensive drive, with six shots on goal, Wesleyan still led in attacking with nine shots in the period. The Cardinals also picked up 12 ground balls to the Ephs’ 10. With 5:51 left in the quarter, David Hawley ’11, assisted by Brian Morrissey ’09, spearheaded a new assault by scoring the first goal of the quarter. The Cardinals tied the game back up 55 seconds later with another goal, and the rest of the quarter saw more back-and-forth action. Goalie Michael Gerbush ’09 definitely gave Williams an edge, as he made three crucial saves that prevented Wesleyan from scoring goals amidst all the shot attempts. With the quarter about to end in a tie once more, Richard Reuter ’10, assisted by Murray, gave the Ephs a one-point lead with 17 seconds left.
While the game was too close to call through the first half, the Ephs took control in the third, scoring three consecutive goals. The third quarter saw the Ephs match the Cardinals for goal attempts and pick up two more ground balls. Williams scored all three goals within three minutes of each other. Reuter, assisted by Hargrove, scored the first goal at 3:50 into the quarter; Hawley followed with his second goal at 5:18. Michael Acierno ’12 topped off the streak with an unassisted goal 32 seconds later, which gave the Ephs a 7-3 lead. Though Wesleyan kept assaulting the Williams goal to bring the game closer, Gerbush made another four crucial saves to shut the opponents out. The men ended the third quarter with their comfortable four-point lead.
Although the Cardinals matched the Ephs goal-for-goal in the final quarter, the lead the Ephs had gained in the third proved too much. The Cardinals launched a formidable counterattack, making 10 shots on goal to the Ephs’ six and claiming 19 ground balls to the Ephs’ 13, but the Williams defense proved too resilient. Williams cleared nine of 13 times, and Gerbush made another five saves to stop Wesleyan. At 1:58 into the fourth, Sam Hargrove ’12 netted an unassisted goal before the Cardinals scored two straight in an attempt to bring the game closer. But Hargrove scored once more with 1:49 remaining, giving the Ephs an insurmountable four-point lead. Williams sealed the Little Three title with a score of 9-5.
The men have now racked up six straight wins, including their first in Middletown, Conn. since 2000. But the Ephs will play the last game of the season against the formidable Panthers, who not only lead the NESCAC, but also have lost just one game all season. The men hope to take the lessons they have learned in the past several games and apply them in their away game against Middlebury this Saturday.