The most important game of the men’s lacrosse season looms on Saturday, May 4. If their season thus far is any indication, it will also be the most contentious. The Cardinals will visit the Middlebury Panthers, the NESCAC regular season champions and hosts of the conference tournament. With a stellar 13-2 overall record with eight conference wins, the Panthers positioned themselves as the team to beat in tourney play. Middlebury has the second highest scoring offense in the NESCAC, anchored by two first-team and one second-team All-NESCAC attackers.

The Panthers’ unstoppable offense will meet Wesleyan’s immovable defense, which has yielded a conference-low 70 goals on the season. Captain Mike Robinson ’13, who was recently named first-team All-NESCAC, spearheads the Cardinals’ defensive efforts. Robinson has terrorized opponents this season, causing a team-leading 29 turnovers and picking up 34 ground balls. This marks the second time he has garnered conference recognition; he notched second-team All-NESCAC honors back in 2011.

Joining Robinson on the all-conference squad is Brendan Hanley ’13, who has been a presence on both sides of the ball. Hanley pairs his eight goals and four assists with 34 grounders and 14 forced turnovers. This marks Hanley’s second straight all-NESCAC honor as well.

The Cardinals have only conceded double-digit goals to a conference opponent twice this season; on the flip side, they have also only scored more than 10 goals in two NESCAC bouts. To be successful against Middlebury and to stave off a repeat of their regular season 7-6 loss to the Panthers, the offensive pressure must be steady.

Consistency is key for the Cardinals as they call upon their top scorers Remy Lieberman ’14 and Graham Macnab ’14 to pace the Wes attack. The Redbirds also expect a big effort from David Murphy ’15, who is the team leader with 33 points, evenly distributed between 16 goals and 17 assists. He is one of seven players with at least 16 goals this season; the Cardinals will need all of their attackers to be sharp if they hope to play for the conference championship this Sunday, May 5 against the winner of the other semifinal match between Tufts and Conn College.

“When it comes to individual goals, you really just want to win,” said Mike Giambanco ’14. “If you performing well helps that happen, then I want to keep playing well, but I also want to win the NESCAC tournament, make it to the NCAA tournament, and hopefully win the NCAA Championship.”

The Cardinals have proven they can square up with any team in the ’CAC. A win against Middlebury would certainly prove that they are ready to mix it up with even more national powerhouses.

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