This past weekend, the men’s lacrosse team played its season opener at home in a NESCAC matchup against Hamilton (1-1, 0-1 NESCAC). There was a good crowd in attendance at Citrin Field, and they were in for a classic. Wesleyan (1-1, 1-0 NESCAC) won 9-8 in overtime, with Captain Matt Prezioso ’15’s winning goal coming with four seconds left in the overtime period.
This result mirrored last year’s opener at Hamilton, in which Wesleyan also found a way to win with the clock winding down in overtime. Indeed, this was the Birds’ third one-goal win versus Hamilton in five all-time encounters, all of which went Wesleyan’s way.
Wes went up 4-2 early in the second period, with two of the goals coming from new first-year contributors, Taylor Ghesquiere ’18 and Harry Stanton ’18. After this early advantage, Hamilton fought back even, and late in the period the teams traded goals to knot it up at five going into the third.
The Continentals then took the game to the Cards, and by the beginning of the fourth, they had amassed an 8-6 advantage, with three of their goals coming from senior Pax Anthos. The Cards dug deep in the fourth period, first cutting into the lead with 11 minutes to go on Niall Devaney ’16’s second of the game. Then, with under four minutes left to play, Stanton, in his first-ever collegiate game, found an equalizer while falling backward on the extra man opportunity.
Stanton broke down the sequence of events leading up to the tying goal.
“There were only a few minutes left in the game, and we were down by a goal,” Stanton wrote in an email to The Argus. “Prez[ioso] made an incredible play that we all thought should have been the tying goal, but it ended up being just a penalty so we got a man-up opportunity. I play behind the net on the man-up and we started doing a play where we carry one way and throw back another way. So as Lyle [Mitchell ’16] caught the ball on the wing, he ran up, then dished it down low to me. I saw a defenseman coming at me from across the crease so I threw a pump fake and dove a little as I shot. I ended up on the ground and had no idea it went in until my teammates were celebrating. It felt great to contribute like that and I was really pumped, but knew it wasn’t over yet.”
Things remained in a deadlock at the end of regulation, extending the game to overtime. The Cards killed off a penalty early on, but another overtime period loomed as the clock dwindled down. The Continentals were unable to pick up ground ball after ground ball on Wesleyan missed shot opportunities, and after one shot sailed wide, Prezioso received a pass near the crease from an out-of-bounds play. In dramatic fashion, the Redbirds netted a last second winner when Prezioso found the twine from a tight angle with four seconds left in the first overtime.
“That entire possession we had a ton of shots on goal and were really pressuring their defense and getting some good looks,” Prezioso wrote. “We had a couple big time plays where the ball was on the ground and we were able to get it back to save that possession, but I was never really concerned. I knew it was a matter of time before we put one in. Our other senior captain Nate Ryan took a great shot coming down the alley with nine seconds left, and as I was going to pick up the ball from the endline, I looked at the clock and just said to myself, I’ve got to go and try and make something happen right now. Luckily I was able to drive up the left side and get underneath my defenseman for a quality shot that beat the goalie.”
After this exciting start, the squad played host to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2-2) on Wednesday, March 4. The game was one to forget for the Cards, as they let a 10-7 lead slip away.
The Engineers scored the last four goals, including the overtime winner, and eked out a victory. This will be a tough one to swallow for the Cards, as they were in control until the very end. The out-of-conference loss luckily has no bearing on the Cardinals conference playoff hopes, but the defeat will hurt their chances of receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The stats were essentially even in all categories, as the Cards did not play their best game against one of the weaker opponents they will face this year. RPI’s Breanainn McNeally tormented the Redbirds with five goals, including the game-tier and game-winner. The Red Hawk Attackman also added an assist to total six points for the contest. Wesleyan juniors Jackson Arnold, Niall Devaney, and Lyle Mitchell each found the back of the net twice, as did Stephen Dodd ’15; David Murphy ’15 had three assists, but the Cards ultimately fell short.
The squad will have redemption on its mind as they travel to Bates this Saturday, and will be hoping to remain undefeated in the NESCAC. Wes has an all-time record of 21-12 against the Bobcats including a 10-6 win at Citrin Field a season ago. The Cardinals’ last win in Lewiston, Maine came in 2009 via an 11-8 outcome.