Men's Lacrosse Drops First Two in OT
Issue   |   Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:04

Enduring some growing pains with a young, inexperienced roster, the men’s lacrosse team suffered back-to-back overtime defeats at Colby and Bates last weekend.

In both heartbreaking losses, the Jeffs (0-2) rallied from late deficits in regulation, only to concede the first goal in sudden-death overtime. Amherst is now just 2-8 in its last 10 games against NESCAC opponents (dating back to last season).

After head coach Jon Thompson led Amherst to a fantastic debut season in 2011 — capturing the NESCAC’s No. 2 seed and a NCAA Quarterfinal berth — the program has endured a difficult slide in recent years.

Burdened by high expectations last spring, the Jeffs rose to No. 3 in the national rankings by late March, but went 2-7 down the stretch to tumble out of contention. Seeking to reinvigorate the program with a slew of young talent in 2013, Thompson said he would adopt a long-term developmental approach to coaching this year, “to focus more on the process and less on the outcomes.”

Regardless, after two crushing losses, the Jeffs might be hard-pressed to block out some of the negativity that creeped into the program during the team’s second-half slump in 2012.

On Saturday, the Jeffs nearly eked out a remarkable comeback victory at Colby (2-0, 1-1 NESCAC) — surmounting an early 4-0 deficit — but the Mules prevailed 11-10 in overtime. Devin Acton ’14, Jeff Izzo ’13 and a trio of first-years (Dylan Park, Kane Haffey and Sam Lawlor) each chipped in two goals.

“The outcome was obviously not what we hoped for, but there were a lot of positives to take away from the game,” Co-Captain Danny Gold ’13 said. “A bunch of the younger guys played well, and we fought back from the early four-goal deficit.”

Paralyzed by early-season nerves, the Jeffs stumbled to a shaky start against Colby, conceding four goals in the first 4:48 to fall behind 4-0 less than five minutes into the game. With Colby sporting a 26-4 record over its past 30 home games, Saturday’s contest initially seemed to be heading toward a blowout.

“We lost a few faceoffs in a row and Colby capitalized on their opportunities,” Gold said. “We had so many young guys out there and I am sure they were a little nervous at first.”

Recovering nicely from the nightmarish start, the Jeffs responded with four goals in the next 10 minutes, closing the deficit to 5-4 by the end of the first quarter. Park netted the first goal of his collegiate career with 9:05 to play before Acton — the Jeffs’ leading scorer in 2012 — converted on a nice rush to the net at the 6:47 mark.

After Colby took advantage of a botched Amherst defensive clearance to go ahead 5-2, the Jeffs struck twice in the final 43 seconds of the period, with Lawlor and Acton providing the goals.

“Once we settled down and started to play our game, our young guys didn’t skip a beat,” Gold.

The furious scoring rate in the first quarter slowed considerably in the second quarter, as both teams notched only one goal apiece, giving Colby a 6-5 advantage at halftime.

Recovering from the frenetic, action-packed pace of the opening quarter, the defenses continued to hold strong in the third quarter. Colby outscored Amherst 2-1 in the period to take a 8-6 lead into the final quarter.

After the teams traded scores in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter (with Colby pulling ahead 9-7), the Jeffs netted three unanswered goals to take the lead.

Izzo ignited the rally with a goal with 7:25 remaining, cutting the margin to 9-8. Lawlor knotted the score at 9-9 with 3:48 left in regulation, before Haffey capped the surge after receiving a slick pass from Acton with 1:57 on the clock. After a miserable start, the Jeffs appeared to be on the cusp of a rousing, confidence-building victory.

Having mounted the valiant comeback, however, the Jeffs faltered in the dying moments. The Mules won a crucial late faceoff to regain possession, then stunned Amherst with an equalizer just 55 seconds later (with 1:02 on the clock).

The Mules carried the late momentum into overtime, scoring the golden goal just 1:05 into the extra session. Colby’s All-American Ian Deveau fired a high, blistering shot past Amherst goalkeeper Rob Dickinson ’15 to finish a thrilling — but gut-wrenching — contest.

“We need to do a better job of not digging ourselves into a hole early in games,” Gold said.

Sunday’s game against Bates (1-2, 1-1 NESCAC) followed a similar script. The Jeffs overcame a three-goal deficit in the final quarter, but fell agonizingly in sudden-death overtime.

Finishing near the NESCAC basement last year (2-8 record), the Bobcats stunned the Jeffs with an improved performance. From 2009-2012, Amherst had dominated Bates in head-to-head matchups, winning four straight contests by at least three goals.

“Bates played well and we think they will surprise some people this year,” Gold said.

After the Bobcats netted a quick tally 43 seconds into the game, Acton scored a pair of goals 1:31 apart to give Amherst an early 2-1 lead. The score remained 2-1 until the Jeffs’ defense disintegrated in the final three minutes of the opening period, with the Bobcats exploding for three goals in a 2:58 span.

Rebounding from the blow, the Jeffs carried the play in the second quarter, outscoring Bates 3-0 to take a 5-4 lead at halftime. Quinn Moroney ’16 and Haffey struck the nylon at 11:51 and 10:13 to tie the game at 4-4, before Acton completed his hat-trick with 4:45 remaining in the quarter.

The match featured a series of wild momentum swings in the second half, culminating in a furious overtime finish. After Izzo scored 1:14 into the third quarter, Bates stormed back with five unanswered goals, turning a 6-4 deficit into a 9-6 lead.

The Bobcats dominated possession in the third quarter — outworking the Jeffs for ground balls (14-7) — and thus created substantially more scoring opportunities.

Staring at a 9-6 hole with 10 minutes remaining, the Jeffs mounted another spirited comeback to send the game into overtime. Acton rejuvenated the team’s slumbering offense with a man-up goal at the 9:47 mark, ending Amherst’s 19-minute scoreless streak. Four minutes later, Park rifled a shot to cut the gap to 9-8, with Moroney dishing out his third assist of the day.

With 2:11 remaining on the clock, Park scored again to knot the contest at 9-9, sending the Amherst bench into a frenzy.

But for the second straight day, elation was followed by inconsolable anguish, as Bates’s Dan Hines sealed the victory 2:22 into overtime, sending Amherst to another demoralizing loss.

“We got better as a team from Saturday to Sunday, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Gold said. “On defense, we improved our clearing game from Saturday, which was one of our points of emphasis going into the Bates game.”

The Jeffs will look to enter the win column against Eastern Connecticut State at home (Gooding Field) this afternoon at 4:30 pm. During spring break, Amherst will face Bowdoin at a neutral site (Brown Univ.) on Saturday. Later that week, the Jeffs will play two non-league games against Endicott and Nazareth.