The men’s lacrosse team postseason play ended as soon as it began this past weekend with a trip to Brunswick, Maine. There, a matchup awaited against the Bowdoin Polar Bears in a NESCAC quarterfinal tilt. The sixth-seeded Cardinals had previously upset the Polar Bears at Jackson Field in Middletown two weeks earlier, and were fresh off a win over Conn College on Wednesday, albeit a somewhat unimpressive one. Bowdoin, the third seed in the NESCAC tournament, came into the game off a loss to Tufts, the two-time defending national champions. A close, low-scoring game would again favor the home team this time around, as Bowdoin edged out Wesleyan by a score of 10-8. The loss will most likely end a once promising season for the Red & Black.
Despite never holding a lead in the contest, the game stayed very much in reach for the Cardinals throughout, and in a season of close, back and forth games, it was only fitting that this game remained true to the standard. Bowdoin came into the game with the top-ranked defense in the NESCAC, and the unit certainly played to the high standard that they set during the regular season. Two 3-0 runs by the Polar Bear offense, paired with their stellar defense and outstanding play in net by goaltender Peter Mumford, ensured the victory for Bowdoin.
Quentin DellaFera ’16, Harry Stanton ’18, and Christian Barker ’19 scored two goals apiece for the Cardinal attack, while Niall Devaney ’16 and Taylor Ghesquiere ’18 each contributed one. Andres Rodriguez ’18 churned out an outstanding effort on the defensive side, picking up three ground balls and causing two turnovers. Goalie Ted Bergman ’18, who enjoyed a breakout campaign for the Cardinals in his first season between the pipes, made nine saves in net for the Redbirds.
Bowdoin drew first blood, scoring just 50 seconds into the contest. Wesleyan would answer just over a minute later when Carter Hawthorne ’19 set up a goal for DellaFera. The Polar Bear attack then embarked on a three-goal string to take a 4-1 lead. Stanton scored unassisted at the 3:54 mark to cut the deficit to two goals before DellaFera found the back of the net once more with just thirteen seconds remaining in the first quarter. An exchange of goals early in the second gave way to another 3-0 run by Bowdoin, before Devaney and Stanton scored in succession to trim the score to 8-6 at the half.
Barker commenced the scoring in the second half with an unassisted tally only 34 seconds into action. The teams would once again exchange goals, with Bowdoin’s Alex Osgood beating Bergman before Barker scored on another solo effort. The final 6:56 of the third remained scoreless, and Bowdoin scored the lone tally of the fourth quarter for either team, stretching their lead to 10-8, where it would remain to secure victory for the home team.
Mumford, the Bowdoin netminder, played fantastic in the fourth, denying all nine shots and any chance of a Cardinal comeback. The loss puts Wesleyan’s record at 10-5 for the season, with a 6-4 mark in NESCAC play. The team’s all-time record in the NESCAC tournament now sits at 18-14. Even with the loss, the team holds onto a slim chance of earning a bid to the NCAA tournament given the success they enjoyed during the regular season. It had four losses during the regular season, but each was by only one goal, and thus, in five losses, the team’s total margin of defeat sits at a mere six goals.
Regardless of a disappointing result in the NESCAC tournament, several players enjoyed fine campaigns for the Red and Black. Stanton, coming off a first-year effort in which he was named NESCAC Rookie of the Year and scored 29 goals with 17 assists, turned out to have an ever better season for the Cardinals this year. The 5’ 7”, 165 pound Cardinal attackman finished third in the conference in goals with 49, while adding seven assists as the focal point of the Wesleyan attack.
Ghesquiere, who enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign for the Cardinals, netted 39 goals and added eight assists. Devaney contributed 28 goals and 13 assists in his final season donning the Redbird uniform, while DellaFera added 18 goals and 27 assists in his senior campaign, with his assists tally good for seventh in the conference.
Despite the loss of these two standouts on offense next year, the future of the Cardinal attack looks bright. In addition to Stanton and Ghesquiere returning, first-year standouts Barker and Hawthorne look to be a big part of the Cardinal offense for years to come. Hawthorne netted 22 goals and added 11 assists for the Birds, while Barker tallied 15 goals and 22 helpers, good for ninth in the NESCAC. In net, Bergman finishes ranked third in the conference in save percentage at 54.6%, while only allowing 10.2 goals per game, placing him in fifth in the rankings.
Although 2016 was a season full of lingering questions with a disappointing conclusion to the year, the future for the Cardinals looks bright.