Wesleyan defeats men’s lacrosse

Men’s lacrosse (7-7, 5-4 in the NESCAC) fell 11-5 to Wesleyan (6-3, 12-3) in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC tournament on Sunday after a close 13-11 loss to Middlebury (8-1, 13-1) on Friday. The quarterfinal marked the end of the men’s season. The Ephs rank fifth in the NESCAC and although the team struggled in the postseason the men were able to clinch the Little Three title for the first time since 1999.

Knowing it had handily defeated Wesleyan 9-5 in their previous match-up, Williams arrived in Middletown, Conn. Sunday for the second time in eight days to play the Cardinals in the first round of the NESCAC tournament. The first period saw much back-and-forth action by both teams, but Wesleyan appeared to have the better offensive start, making 12 shots on goal compared to five by Williams. Goalie Michael Gerbush ’09 made four saves to bolster the Ephs’ defense. However, the Cardinals found their rhythm quickly and scored four straight goals. The first period ended with their strong 4-0 lead.

The Ephs increased their offensive efforts in the second quarter, only to have the Cardinals continue to exceed their level of play. Both teams launched into a scoring frenzy as the Cardinals worked to extend their lead and the Ephs attempted to cover lost ground. Tommy Murray ’11, assisted by Sam Hargrove ’12, scored a goal 12 seconds into the quarter, and David Hawley ’11, assisted by Kevin Connolly ’09, followed up with another one a minute and a half later. The Cardinals responded aggressively with two consecutive goals, but Hawley scored again at 5:23 into the quarter. Matt Cranshaw ’11 made the assist. But Wesleyan’s offense picked up steam once more; they scored three more goals in a span of three minutes. With 2:20 left, Adam Benjamin ’10 assisted Hawley’s third goal of the game to slow the Cardinals’ momentum. Nevertheless, Wesleyan responded with another goal at 1:06 remaining. The quarter ended at 10-4 in Wesleyan’s favor.

The third period remained scoreless as the defense took its game up a notch. Gerbush made six saves to prevent the Cardinals from increasing their lead, but the Ephs’ offense could not capitalize to earn points. The score remained at 10-4 through the quarter. And although the Ephs hustled in the fourth quarter, making 10 attempts on goal over the Cardinals’ five, they were unable to make up the six-point deficit. Wesleyan scored four minutes into the quarter, and Hawley returned the favor on an assist from Richard Reuter ’10 with 9:23 left. But the Ephs failed to keep up any sort of momentum, and Wesleyan’s defense effectively sealed the game at 11-5.

Two days before, Williams arrived at Middlebury riding on six consecutive wins. The Panthers, however, were the top team in the NESCAC and had claimed 10 straight victories. Undaunted, the Ephs came out with an explosive start in the first quarter. Hawley scored the first goal, unassisted, at 5:59 into the game, and Michael Acierno ’12 followed with another nine seconds later. Middlebury responded after a minute and a half with its first goal, but Reuter assisted Hawley’s second goal to bring the Ephs to a 3-1 lead by the end of the quarter.

Williams continued to dominate the offensive in the second quarter, and extended its lead by three. Middlebury made one more goal attempt than Williams, but was unsuccessful in terms of actual scoring. Mike Ryan ’11 scored at 1:06 into the quarter, and the Panthers scored their second goal of the game two minutes later. However, towards the end of the period, Williams delivered two more goals: Benjamin scored unassisted with 6:27 left, and Hargrove, assisted by Ryan, scored with 3:38 left. The Ephs were up 6-2 over the Panthers by the end of the first half.

But in an amazing third-quarter comeback, Middlebury overwhelmed the men with an aggressive assault that tied up the game. Cranshaw, Ryan and Murray first brought the Ephs’ lead to 8-2 in the opening three minutes of the period. Middlebury then scored three straight before Hawley cut into their momentum with his third goal at 7:29. At this point, Middlebury found its stride and scored five straight goals within the remaining seven minutes to get ahead for the first time in the game. Seeing the Ephs’ six-point lead evaporate into thin air, Corey Jacobs ’11 scored an unassisted goal with 10 seconds remaining to make it an even 10-10 game.

In the fourth quarter, Middlebury’s momentum carried on as they made more shots and picked up more ground balls than Williams managed. Hawley reestablished the Ephs’ lead 4:31 into the quarter, but that was to be their final goal of the game. The Panthers continued to assault the Ephs’ goal and scored three straight. The game ended in a disappointing 13-11 win for Middlebury.

Although the team suffered two tough losses this weekend, the Ephs’ season as a whole stands as a testament to their training and determination. The quarterfinal against the Cardinals also signified the the last collegiate lacrosse game for seniors Connolly, Brian Morrissey ’09, Ryan Powell ’09, Eric Muller ’09, Gerbush and Elijah Weeks ’09.