Men's Lax Falls to 3-6
Issue   |   Tue, 04/09/2013 - 21:36

Crippled by a lethargic start, the men’s lacrosse team endured another gut-wrenching NESCAC defeat last weekend, falling to regional powerhouse Middlebury 10-8.

Facing an 8-3 deficit at halftime, the Jeffs (3-6, 2-4 NESCAC) mounted a stirring comeback to knot the score at 8-8 entering the fourth quarter, but Middlebury (8-2, 5-2 NESCAC) netted two late goals to escape with the victory.

“I was inspired by the team’s willingness and ability to fight back from five goals down,” head coach Jon Thompson said. “We believe that we can compete with anyone, it just has to happen before we get down five goals. Our heart is inspiring, but our first quarter lulls are absolutely concerning.”

The Jeffs have struggled in tight games this season, as Amherst’s four NESCAC losses have come by a combined five goals. Each one of those NESCAC defeats (Colby, Bates, Wesleyan) has followed the same script: stumble to a large early deficit, stage a furious comeback, but ultimately run out of steam in the crucial last few minutes.

The disastrous first half against Middlebury continued a season-long trend of poor starts. In the four conference losses, the Jeffs have been outscored 16-8 in the first quarter, while holding a positive goal differential (25-22) in the final three quarters.

Against Middlebury, the Jeffs kept the game close until the early stages of the second quarter, down 4-3 nine minutes before halftime.

The Jeffs’ defense unraveled badly down the stretch, however, as Middlebury stunned the hosts with a four-goal barrage in a 3:35 span to turn a close game into a potential rout.

“We are prepared, we care like heck. It’s just a matter of realizing that the other team has great players too, and our will to win has to be greater than theirs. Our competitive fire has to start from the moment we step on the field, not wait until we have been knocked around,” Thompson said.

Regrouping at halftime, the Jeffs came out flying in the third quarter, netting four unanswered goals to close the deficit to 8-7. Dylan Park ’16 ignited the rally with a goal 1:58 into the period, before Kane Haffey ’16 and Jeff Izzo ’13 scored with 6:40 and 3:10 remaining in the quarter.

Attacking with revived confidence and vigor, the Jeffs tied the game at 8-8 when prolific scorer Devin Acton ’14 struck twice in a 91-second span. The team’s offensive linchpin and leading scorer (20 goals), Acton sniped his first with 1:24 remaining in the third quarter, then scored the equalizer just seven seconds into the fourth quarter.

Following the five-goal outburst, however, the Jeffs’ offense stagnated, as Middlebury goaltender Nate Gaudio made five saves in the final quarter to anchor the Panthers to the win.

Seeking to reverse momentum after a tumultuous third quarter, Middlebury edged ahead 9-8 just 1:25 after Acton’s second goal — breaking Amherst’s defensive goalless streak of 21:56 — then scored an insurance tally with 4:27 left in regulation.

The tough sledding continues for the Jeffs this week, as Amherst plays Springfield (4-6) tonight before facing Tufts (8-2, 4-2 NESCAC) on Saturday. While Springfield has struggled this year, the Pride defeated Amherst 9-6 in last year’s meeting.

Tufts — the three-time defending NESCAC champion — is ranked No. 1 in New England, and rides a nine-game winning streak into Saturday’s contest at Gooding Field.

In the NESCAC playoff race, the Jeffs currently sit in a three-way tie with Williams and Trinity for the final two spots (No. 7 and No. 8) in the tournament. Amherst’s remaining league opponents are Tufts (4-2), Conn College (5-1), Williams and Trinity (2-4).