Men's Lacrosse Splits a Pair of NESCAC Contests
Issue   |   Tue, 04/02/2013 - 23:08
Niahlah Hope '15, Public Affairs Office
Senior Ramsey Bates looks to help lead the Jeffs past Middlebury.

Mired in a three-game losing streak, the men’s lacrosse team entered Saturday’s game at Hamilton desperate for a victory.
With a NESCAC record of 1-3 and games looming against top contenders Tufts, Middlebury and Conn College, the Jeffs could ill-afford to lose at Hamilton (4-4, 2-4 NESCAC); otherwise, the unthinkable scenario of missing the NESCAC Tournament — (where eight of 11 teams qualify) — would continue to emerge as a distinct possibility.

But with the pressure mounting, the Jeffs (3-5, 2-3 NESCAC) responded with a terrific performance on the road at Hamilton. Propelled by a five-goal outburst in the first quarter, Amherst coasted to an 11-6 win — a result that may have saved the team’s season.

Reeling from three straight losses — to Endicott, Nazareth and Wesleyan — the victory against Hamilton could not have come at a better time for the Jeffs, who earned an invaluable boost of confidence following a difficult start to the season. Despite being outshot 41-23, the Jeffs prevailed due to a prolific first quarter, disciplined defense and fantastic goaltending from first-year Thomas Gilligan, who stopped 17 of 23 Hamilton’s shots on goal.

Hungry for a win to break the slump, the Jeffs raced out to a phenomenal start, stunning the hosts with five unanswered goals in the first quarter. Co-Captain Danny Gold ’13 ignited the Jeffs with a goal 1:58 after the opening faceoff. The Jeffs went up 2-0 when Patrick Moroney ’16 scored 4:05 into the game, then extended the lead to 3-0 when Aaron Mathias ’14 found the net just 1:04 later.

Slicing through Hamilton’s defense with ruthless efficiency, the Jeffs added two more goals in the final six minutes of the first quarter, as leading scorers Kane Haffey ’16 and Devin Acton ’14 netted their 14th and 18th goals of the season, respectively.

Riding comfortably on a 5-0 lead, the Jeffs cruised the rest of way to an 11-6 victory. Amherst led 6-1 after halftime and 9-4 after three quarters. The Continentals did close the deficit to 9-6 by the final five minutes of regulation, but late goals from Sam Lawlor ’16 and Acton sealed the result.

From a statistical perspective, the Continentals dominated the second half, outshooting Amherst 25-11, winning 8-of-12 faceoffs and holding a 21-14 edge in ground balls. Gilligan, however — making only the third start of his collegiate career — and the defense delivered a gritty, tenacious effort to frustrate the Continentals.

Three days earlier, the Jeffs suffered a tough 7-6 loss to Wesleyan at Gooding Field, extending a long run of futility against the Cardinals (Amherst has now lost 15 of the past 16 meetings with Wesleyan). The Jeffs battled their way out of an early 4-0 deficit, but Wesleyan (6-2, 3-2 NESCAC) gradually regained the momentum midway through the second half to pull out the winFor the Jeffs, the result dropped their NESCAC record to 1-3, with all three losses (Colby, Bates, Wesleyan) coming in one-goal nail-biters.

The Cardinals scored three goals in a span of 1:16 in the first quarter, exploding to a 3-0 lead just six minutes after the opening whistle. After Wesleyan extended to lead to 4-0 early in the second quarter, the resilient Jeffs responded with three unanswered goals. Haffey netted the first two goals (at 7:44 and 1:29 in the period) before Acton punctuated the rally just 18 seconds before halftime.

Building off the late first-half surge, the Jeffs knotted the score at 4-4 when Haffey completed his hat trick 2:11 into the period. However, the Cardinals slowly recovered the momentum, scoring three of the next four goals en route to a 7-5 lead.

Amherst made one late comeback push —Dylan Park ’16 scored to close the margin to 7-6 with 3:30 remaining — but the Cardinals held on for the victory.

The Jeffs will face a tough test in their next game against Middlebury at home this Saturday. Anchored by a stingy defensive unit, the Panthers (6-1, 4-1 NESCAC) have conceded a league-low 6.0 goals per game this season and appear to be one of the top contenders in the NESCAC this season.