Men’s Lax Falls Short of First Ever NESCAC Title
Issue   |   Wed, 05/07/2014 - 02:17
Rob Mattson
Senior Aaron Mathias had two goals on the weekend.

This past weekend, the now 12th-ranked Amherst men’s lacrosse team made program history, earning both their first NESCAC semifinals and finals appearances. In the conference semifinals on Saturday, the third-seeded Jeffs upset second-seeded Wesleyan 12-8 to advance to the championship finals the next day, where they would face top-seeded Tufts. Amherst ultimately lost to the Jumbos, but the team’s accomplishments this season earned them an at-large bid for the Div. III NCAA Tournament.

“Getting into the NCAA tournament is a special reward for the hard work the team has put in all year,” Kane Haffey ’16 said.

On Saturday, the Jeffs came out strong against the Cardinals, scoring the first four goals of the game off shots from Haffey, Devin Acton ’14 and two from Charlie Gill ’16. Wesleyan got on the board with just over a minute-and-a-half remaining in the first quarter. Amherst continued its strong play in the second period, as Haffey and Acton notched their second scores of the game, giving the Jeffs a 6-2 lead going into halftime.

Both teams came out of halftime with a newfound spark in their offenses. Aaron Mathias ’14 started the scoring but the Cardinals answered right back with a goal of their own. First-year Matt Killian was the next player to find the back of the net, but once again the Cardinals responded with a goal. However, the Jeffs who hit their stride for the remainder of the third, outscoring the Cardinals 4-1 in the last ten minutes of the quarter.

Down 12-5 entering the fourth, the Cardinals scored two early goals, but the Jeff defense stepped up and stopped all their momentum. Wesleyan scored one last goal in the final minute of the game, but it was too little too late as Amherst held on for the 12-8 victory and advanced to their first NESCAC championship in program history.

In the other semifinal match-up, Tufts dominated Williams 17-6 and looked to ride this momentum into the championship game.

The beginning of the conference final was reminiscent of the two team’s regular season game, as the Jumbos opened the game scoring six of the first seven goals. However, Amherst was able to swing the energy their way near the end of the quarter, narrowing the deficit to 7-4 with scoring contributions from Acton, Killian and Quinn Moroney ’16.

The Amherst defense held the Jumbo offense in check in the second quarter, while the team’s offense continued to find their stride as they outscored Tufts 4-2 in the frame. Patrick Moroney ’14, Haffey, Acton and Dylan Park ’16 all scored, bringing the Jeffs within one, down 9-8 at halftime.

Haffey tied the game up at nine-all at the start of the third, but the Jeffs would never overcome this tie. Tufts answered with two quick goals, and Haffey responded with one of his own (assist from Q. Moroney). However, the Jumbos rattled off seven of the next eight goals, and despite one more score from Haffey and Gill in the period, the Amherst squad found themselves down 18-12 going into the fourth.

Tufts scored twice more in the final period, and P. Moroney added one more for Amherst, leaving the final score at 20-13 and Tufts’ win — the Jumbo’s fifth straight conference championship title. Amherst maintained a slight advantage in shots and turnovers in the game, while the Jumbos edged the Jeffs in faceoff wins and ground balls. Senior goalie Greg Majno recorded 10 saves on the afternoon, while Tufts’ Patton Watkins racked up a personal record 24 saves.

The Jeffs were selected for an at-large bid into the Div. III NCAA Tournament, just the second time in the program’s history, continuing the team’s record-breaking year.

“I think we’ve steadily improved over the course of the season and are playing our best lacrosse right now,” Haffey noted.

Amherst will square off against Colorado College (9-4) Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. at home.

“It’s especially meaningful to be able to extend the season a little longer for our seniors. Our focus is on one game at a time, and with that mentality, we’re not looking past or underestimating Colorado College” Haffey added. “Anyone that makes the NCAA tournament is a solid team, and they’re no exception. We know they’ve got a solid goalie and some serious offensive threats, but we’re excited and ready for the challenge.”