While most students spent the last two weeks away from campus enjoying the warm weather, navigating the slopes, or simply relaxing in the comfort of their homes, the men’s lacrosse team was hard at work back in Middletown. Just a couple of weeks into the 2016 season, the squad’s record stands at 4-2, with a 1-2 performance in NESCAC play.

Niall Devaney ’16 currently paces the squad in points with 18 through 6 games, including 13 goals and 5 assists. Harry Stanton ’18 and Taylor Ghesquiere ’18 are not far behind, with 16 and 15 points, respectively. In addition to his 2 assists, Stanton leads the team with 14 goals. Ghesquiere has chipped in with 12 goals and 3 assists so far during his sophomore campaign.

At 4-2, Devaney reflected on his squad’s start to the year.

“Despite those close overtime losses, I feel the season has gotten off to a very good start,” Devaney said. “We have good wins both in and out of conference, and our overtime losses were to two very good teams, which shows that we can play with anybody if we execute correctly. While a loss is never a good thing, I think the whole team understands the little mistakes that led to them and how they are easily fixable.”

In their season opener two weeks ago, the Cardinals’ welcomed a familiar foe to town in the Bates Bobcats, who ended Wesleyan’s season a year ago in a NESCAC tournament game at Jackson Field. The Cardinals jumped out to a 2-0 lead with goals by Lyle Mitchell ’16 and Devaney. At one point, thanks to Carter Hawthorne ’19, Ghesquiere, and Christian Barker ’19, Wesleyan led 5-2.

However, Bates rallied before the half and went into the break leading 6-5. Quentin DellaFera ’16 evened the score early in the third period, before regaining the lead for the Cardinals with two goals in quick succession. Facing two different two-goal deficits in the fourth quarter, the Redbirds were able to force overtime when a Devaney goal evened the score with under a minute remaining. In overtime, despite mustering five shots on net, the Cardinals were unable to capitalize. Bates scored the game winner with just :04 remaining to win, 12-11.

Barker tallied an impressive four points in his first collegiate game, including three assists and one goal. Devaney led the team with three goals, while DellaFera had two. Jared Jacobs ’16 snared a game-high seven ground balls for Wesleyan, while Ted Bergman ’17 stopped 20 shots in an impressive showing.

Devaney discussed the significance of these NESCAC clashes and how much parity there seems to be in the conference.

“It’s as important as ever to have a strong performance in-conference, as the NESCAC is once again the strongest conference in DIII lacrosse,” Devaney said. “Winning in the NESCAC is never easy, as any team can win on any particular day, so showing consistency in the conference will bode well for us as the season progresses.”

After an out-of-conference victory over Roger Williams University, the team made the trek to Clinton, NY to take on another NESCAC opponent, Hamilton. Shouldered by Stanton, the Cardinals came away with a 9-6 victory over the Continentals.

Hamilton was able to take a 2-0 lead early before Barker cut the deficit to one as time dwindled down in the opening frame. Stanton and Ghesquiere opened the second quarter with a goal apiece, giving Wesleyan its first lead of the day. Midway through the quarter, Devaney took a pass from Ghesquiere and found the back of the net. Ghesquiere then added another goal to his name as the Cardinals pulled ahead, 5-2. The teams would trade goals when Stanton converted another one late in the period, giving the Redbirds a 6-3 lead at the break.

The second quarter proved to be the difference in this one, with Wesleyan outscoring Hamilton, 5-1. The Continentals couldn’t muster enough offense in the second half to close the gap, as each team scored three goals in the final two quarters. Stanton would add two more goals in the second half, and the Cardinals were able to fend off a late charge by the Continentals, holding on for the 9-6 victory.

The Cardinals outshot their opponents 39-37 and dominated the ground ball game, edging the Continentals by a margin of 40-28. Once again, Stanton led the way for the Cardinals, tallying four goals and picking up four ground balls. Greg Pietroforte ’16 topped all players with 7 ground balls, while Quinn Mendelson ’17 and Andres Rodriguez ’18 provided active sticks, forcing 2 turnovers apiece, and Bergman stopped 15 of the 21 shots he faced in net.

When asked about his goals for the season, Devaney left no doubt where his priorities lie. With execution on par with what the team displayed against Hamilton, his aspirations are certainly achievable.

“Everybody’s long term goal is to win a NESCAC championship and move on to the NCAA playoffs,” Devaney stated. “However, we have more short-term goals, but those change every week, as they are related to individual games and individual matchups.  So individually, I know my goals change every week just depending on what our game plan is and what particularly I am asked to do.”

After cruising to a 13-8 victory over Vassar College, Wesleyan welcomed Middlebury to Citrin Field in another NESCAC affair. Despite a valiant effort by the Cardinals to force overtime, the Panthers came away victorious by a 9-8 margin.

Middlebury jumped out a 3-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, but Devaney and Ghesquiere added goals to cut the deficit to one. Middlebury would add two more goals before the teams would each add one more score, and the Panthers took a 6-3 lead into the locker room. DellaFera and Hawthorne would commence the scoring in the second half, once again cutting the Middlebury lead to one. Middlebury would be quick to answer with two goals of their own, taking an 8-5 lead into the final frame.

At the 10:57 mark of the quarter, Stanton provided a spark that would lead to a Cardinal rally. He spun and split his defenders to find the back of the net unassisted. He would score two more goals in the next three minutes to even the score, and neither team would score again in regulation. However, the Panthers would start with the ball and capitalize on a man-advantage opportunity with a goal at the 3:10 mark to win the game.

Despite the loss, the Cardinals played the nationally-ranked Panthers as tough as they could have hoped. The Wesleyan defense held Middlebury scoreless in the final frame while their offense, headed by Stanton, rallied to force overtime. The Redbirds were able to eliminate a three-goal halftime deficit, while Bergman once again stood tall in net, stopping nine shots and scooping up five ground balls.

With the Cardinals sitting at 3-2 overall and 1-2 in conference action, Wes hosted Clark University on Monday night and cruised to a 16-6 victory. The trio of Devaney, Ghesquiere, and Stanton combined for eleven Cardinal goals, while Bergman made seven saves in only three quarters of action.

In addition to veterans fueling the team’s hot start, first-year players have played an important role as well, according to Devaney.

“Younger players have been playing a critical role this year, as we had many spots open from players graduating,” Devaney said. “This is incredibly important because there are always roles that need to be filled, and when you have young players able to do that, it not only helps the team right now, but is a huge positive for the program moving forward this season and beyond.”

Next up for the Cardinals is a home game this Saturday against SUNY Oneonta. The team will look to continue its fast start to the season.

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