Men’s lacrosse stymies Colby comeback

Coming off two very successful years in the most competitive conference in Div. III, men’s lacrosse (1-0, 1-0 in the NESCAC) had a strong season opener against Colby on Saturday, coming back from a one-goal half time deficit to claim a 7-6 victory.

The men claimed the program’s first NESCAC title and NCAA berth in 2008 and followed up the strong performance with a Little Three Championship last year. The team is looking to build on these successes this season.

“Obviously, our goal every year is to win the Little Three, the NESCAC championship and then make it to NCAAs,” said co-captain Andrew D’Ambrosio ’10. “We are really trying to live game by game and week by week so as not to lose sight of the fact that every practice is vital to our success, and every game is just as difficult as any other.”

The men started the season off with that philosophy in the game against Colby, downing Colby at home last weekend. Colby started off the game with a 2-0 lead just 7:27 into the first period. Williams, however, narrowed the lead to one with a goal 12 minutes into the quarter when Matt Cranshaw ’11 took a shot that rebounded just outside the crease, where Tim Goggins ’12 snatched up the ball and fired it into the back of the net past Colby’s Tom Gianakos. The 2-1 tally held through the rest of the period.

Sam Hargrove ’12 opened up the second period for the Ephs, tying the game up just 1:41 into the quarter. The men held their ground defensively, with Stephen Vrla ’10 anchoring the team in the net, until 11:31 remained in the period. Then the Mules opened fire, scoring two goals in 50 seconds to pull ahead 4-2. Six minutes later, Mike Ryan ’11 collected the ball from co-captain Rich Reuter ’10 and sent a shot flying past Gianakos to pull his team within one, and the team ended the half down 4-3.

Williams turned the ball over six times on the half, while Colby lost control nine times. The Mules dominated the faceoffs, coming away with six successes on eight matchups for the half. Offensively, Williams dominated: The men outshot Colby 19-12, and also claimed 10 ground balls to the Mules’ nine.

The Ephs stepped up their offense in the second half, taking advantage of the late second quarter momentum from Ryan’s goal to outscore the Mules 3-0 on the period. Just 2:49 in, Corey Jacobs ’11 got on the board to tie the game at 4-4 after cutting in from the top right corner of the offensive zone and flinging hte ball past Gianokos. Cranshaw then spearheaded the team’s rush in the third quarter, scoring first with 9:41 left to play in the period off an assist from Reuter. Cranshaw dodged his way through the Mules’ defense yet again four minutes later, lasering a lefty shot past the Mules’ netminder for an unassisted goal, putting his team up 6-4 as the clock ran down.

Cranshaw again led the Ephs to start off the fourth quarter, assisting on Williams’ seventh goal of the day. The junior dropped to the middle on the play before looking to the right, where Hargrove waited to collect the pass and then score his second goal of the regular season just 32 seconds into the period. Though the men held their comfortable lead through the majority of the period, Colby’s Whit McCarthy snuck a shot past Vrla with just 3:12 left in the game to start the Mules’ last-ditch attempt at a win. Teammate Greg McKillop followed suit, notching another goal for Colby with 1:30 on the clock. The Mules claimed the next faceoff, but the Eph defense held strong to close out the game 7-6. Vrla made nine of his 11 saves in the second 30 minutes to give his team the defensive advantage on the half.

Head Coach George McCormack saw the Colby game as a good jumping-off point for the men’s season, as well as a validation of their winter training. “Coming into the offseason, our emphasis was to get into the best shape possible physically … to become fundamentally sound … and to really compete with each other in practice and in the weight room,” he said. “In the second half of the Colby game those three things really paid off.”

D’Ambrosio noted the difficulty of opening against a conference opponent. “If you lose you will find yourself in an early hole in the league,” he said. “Obviously we understand that one game will not make or break our season, but we really emphasized getting off on the right foot this year.”

McCormack echoed D’Ambrosio’s sentiments in regards to taking the season game by game. “We don’t have the privilege of looking past anyone,” McCormack stated. “Everyone on our schedule this year is really good … The only focus we have right now is right on Bates.”

After their strong season opener, the men will hit the road for five games before returning home as spring break ends. Williams will face off against conference rival Bates at 1 p.m. in Lewiston on Saturday, before heading to back-to-back games at Randolph-Macon and Roanoke on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tufts and Endicott, on March 27 and 30, will wrap up the men’s road trip: They will return to Renzie Lamb Field for a 1 p.m. game against Trinity on April 3.