Men’s Lacrosse Bows out of NESCAC Tourney
Issue   |   Tue, 04/30/2013 - 22:21

Crippled by a porous defense, the men’s lacrosse team suffered a brutal end to a frustrating season, losing 19-9 to top-seeded Middlebury in the first round of the NESCAC Tournament last weekend. Plagued by inexperience, erratic play and an inability to win tight games, the Jeffs finished the spring campaign at 5-10 (3-7 NESCAC).

Stumbling to the program’s worst record since 2006, Amherst barely squeaked into the NESCAC Tournament as the No. 8 seed on the final day of the regular season. The Jeffs suffered an agonizing 17-16 overtime defeat to Trinity to jeopardize their playoff hopes, but a fortuitous combination of outside results — Middlebury defeating Williams and Bates beating Colby — gifted the Jeffs a postseason berth. Locked with Trinity (3-7) and Williams (3-7) in the No. 8 spot, Amherst held the tiebreak (record vs. top-8 teams) to slide into the NESCAC Tournament.

But the Jeffs scarcely looked like they belonged on the big stage at Middlebury (13-2, 8-2 NESCAC), falling behind 14-4 by the midway point of the third quarter en route to an embarrassing loss. Combined with the 17-16 slugfest at Trinity in the regular season finale, the Jeffs conceded a staggering 36 goals in their final two games. (Before those two contests, the Jeffs had allowed only 9.38 goals per game this spring).

Head Coach Jon Thompson declined to comment for the article.

The Jeffs travelled to Vermont expecting to give Middlebury a strong upset challenge. When the teams met in the regular season, the Panthers eked out a 10-8 win at Amherst in early April, pulling away in the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s rematch stayed scoreless until the midway point of the first quarter, when Middlebury racked three goals in a 2:49 span to surge ahead 3-0. Jeff Izzo ’13 and Quinn Moroney ’16 countered for the Jeffs in the final minutes of the period, but the Panthers scored three unanswered goals to extend the lead to 6-2. The teams then traded goals near the end of the second quarter, as Middlebury took a 7-3 lead into halftime.

In the regular season matchup, the Jeffs were down 8-3 at halftime before mounting an inspiring comeback, drawing level at 8-8 before Middlebury prevailed in the final quarter.

This time, however, Amherst’s second-half performance was lethargic and demoralizing — anything but inspiring.

Devin Acton ’14 used a slick dodge to score just 34 seconds after halftime to cut the deficit to 7-4, but from there it was all downhill for the Jeffs.

The Panthers exploded for seven goals in a span of just 4:24, swelling the lead from 7-4 to 14-4 in five minutes as Amherst’s defense collapsed. Middlebury’s Andrew Metros, Mike Giordano and Jon Broome each netted a pair of goals during the onslaught, before Joel Blockowicz capped the run off a nice feed from Erich Pfeffer.

With Amherst trailing by ten goals, Acton gave the Jeffs a rare bright spot by completing a hat trick in the third quarter, bagging his team-leading 34th and 35th goals of the season.

Leading 15-7 after three quarters, Middlebury cruised through the final 15 minutes en route to a 19-9 win. The only suspense — if any — came when Middlebury’s Jon Broome tallied his eighth goal of the day with 1:12 remaining, setting a new NESCAC postseason record for most goals in a game. Broome’s eight goals broke the mark previously held by Acton (7 goals in a 14-10 loss to Tufts in 2012).

The defensive collapse against Middlebury was no anomaly, however, as evidenced by last week’s excruciating 17-16 overtime defeat to Trinity in the regular season finale.

With both teams desperately fighting for the No. 8 playoff spot, Trinity and Amherst scored five goals apiece in a wild first quarter. Dylan Park ’16, Patrick Routh ’15, Aaron Mathias ’14, Patrick Moroney ’14 and Danny Gold ’13 scored for the Jeffs in the first 15 minutes.

The wide-open, high-tempo flow continued into the second quarter, with both offenses dissecting the defense at will. The Jeffs gradually began taking control of the match, scoring four of the next five goals to take a 9-6 lead. Trinity’s Matt Cohen notched two late goals, but Izzo scored a dramatic goal one second before halftime to give Amherst a 10-8 lead at intermission.

Offense continued to dominate in the third quarter, with each team bagging five goals to give Amherst a tenuous 15-13 lead with 15 minutes remaining.

After enjoying prolific success in the first 45 minutes, however, the Jeffs’ offense stagnated down the stretch, recording just one goal in the final 19 minutes (counting overtime). Operating against a nervous, unconfident Jeffs’ defense, the Bantams scored twice in the final 3:27 of regulation to tie the game at 16-16. In the extra session, Trinity’s Nick Shaheen tallied the golden goal to condemn Amherst to its third NESCAC overtime defeat this season.

The Trinity loss dropped Amherst’s record to 1-5 in one-goal games, including an 0-3 mark in overtime.

While the Jeffs ultimately grabbed a spot in the postseason — benefitting from fortuitous outside results — the gut-wrenching loss to Trinity could have shattered the team’s confidence entering the NESCAC Tournament.

Since a remarkable 2011 season — (15-3 record, No. 2 in NESCAC, NCAA Quarterfinal berth) — the Jeffs appear to have taken several steps backward. In fairness, 2013 was expected to be a rebuilding year – seven of the ten starters were first-years. As evidenced by last weekend’s blowout loss, however, returning to the upper echelons of the NESCAC won’t be easy for the Jeffs in future years.