c/o Steve McLaughlin

c/o Steve McLaughlin

When The Argus last caught up with the Wesleyan’s men’s lacrosse team, they had just captured their first Little Three title in six years with a clutch 12–11 victory over No. 15 nationally ranked Amherst. Since then, it’s only been up for the Cardinals as they’ve continued their winning ways and shown that they are a force to be reckoned with.

On Saturday, April 6, the Cardinals headed up to Medford, Mass. to play arguably their biggest game of the regular season, where they faced up against No. 4 ranked Tufts, whom they had not beaten in five years.

“Going into that game, having not beaten them ever, it was kind of a nothing to lose mentality, I’d say,” captain and midfielder DJ Dixon ’24 said. “But also, we were pretty confident we could beat them, like, every time we played them. But I think this year more than others, they were weaker than they had been in the past. And we were stronger. So this was the year to do it.”

The game was incredibly tight from the get-go, with neither team leading by more than two points in the first two quarters. Though the Cards had a 7–6 lead at the half, the Jumbos continued applying pressure and tied the score up 11–11 at the end of the third quarter. But a four-goal run, which included two unassisted scores by Dixon, gave the Cards their first three-goal lead of the game with eight minutes to go. Though the Jumbos fought back with two more scores, the Cardinals defense held strong in the last four minutes of the game, and with a final goal by attacker Ben Burns ’26, the Red and Black sealed their hard-fought 16–14 victory.

Captain and defender Charlie Silver ’25 applauded the team’s ability to stay locked in even while facing a tough opponent.

“Although it was back-and-forth the entire game, we never doubted [ourselves],” Silver said. “We had been in tough situations before, we knew what our team was made of, and we knew that if we kept playing the way we had been playing, we were gonna come out on top.”

On Wednesday, the Cardinals faced yet another big challenge with their matchup against in-state rival Trinity. Though the Bantams are not nationally ranked, the Cards suffered a tough loss to them in 2023 and did not want to pass up the opportunity for revenge.

The game got off to a slow start, with only one goal from each team in the first quarter. The action picked up only barely in the second, but by halftime, the score was still tied at just 3 apiece. The teams traded two more goals in third, giving the Cards a precarious 6–5 lead. The action picked up in the fourth with a three-goal run by the Bantams to take a 6–8 lead with less than seven minutes remaining. The Cards responded with another two of their own to tie it up, but with 13 seconds to go, the Bantams scored another to assume the lead. However, it was not over yet, as Burns scored his second goal of the night to tie the score 9–9 and send the game into overtime. Unfortunately, the Bantams capitalized on winning the faceoff and scored the game-winner a minute and a half into overtime, delivering a frustrating blow to the Cards.

Still, the team did not let this loss discourage them from the progress they’d been making all season. 

“I think we learned a lot from that one,” Silver said. “We really worked hard, and sometimes that’s not enough. We came back that next day with the mindset that we have to be even better. It added a little bit of urgency to the rest of our season, which I think is why we’ve been successful since then.”

That Saturday, the Cardinals looked to get back to their winning ways with another NESCAC matchup against Hamilton. Wesleyan got the scoring started as early as possible, as they won the opening faceoff, and 10 seconds into the game, midfielder Charlie Wilmot ’26 netted a shot to get the Cards on the board. They kept up the pace, and thanks to a first-half hat trick by midfielder CK Giancola ’24, the Cardinals ended the second quarter with a substantial 12–4 lead. The third quarter presented a scoring drought for both teams, but in the fourth, the Cards tacked on another five goals to seal the win 17–7.

Coming off a tough loss to an unranked opponent, the Cards knew better than to take the Continentals lightly and made sure they were at the top of their game in order to get their season back on track.

c/o Steve McLaughlin

c/o Steve McLaughlin

“It’s another team that we could play down to their level and make it a game if we want,” midfielder James Bailey ’26 said. “But then we ended up just coming out and destroying them, which is something that we definitely needed to do.”

Using the momentum from their victory over the Continentals, Wes took on Springfield College and made quick work of the Pride. Giancola and Burns put in four goals apiece to lead the Cards to a 21–8 victory.

The Cardinals then returned to NESCAC play with one of their most anticipated games of the season: their Saturday, April 20 matchup versus No. 12 ranked Bowdoin, who at the time was undefeated in NESCAC play.

The Cards started fast with a hat trick by Dixon less than three minutes into the game. The Red and Black extended their lead to 7–4 by the end of the first quarter and continued to hold strong throughout the second, with the score at the half being 9–7. But in the third quarter, they really took flight as they tacked on six more goals while holding the Polar Bears scoreless. 

“That was definitely a turning point,” Dixon said. “It’s the polar opposite of what happened last year when we played Bowdoin. We were down one at the half and kind of handed them the game. The third quarter, they came out with four quick goals and then it was over. We knew the third quarter was gonna be just as important, and we did the opposite. We took the advantage with three quick ones and we didn’t look back.”

The Polar Bears tried to come back in the fourth quarter with a four-goal run at the end of the game, but they were unable to overcome the deficit and the Cardinals claimed a 16–12 victory. 

Silver lauded the team’s ability to put on such a strong performance against a competitive, nationally-ranked opponent.

“When our team’s working hard, when we’re dialed in, we’re really tough to beat,” Silver said. “That was a game where every guy on the team was taking it to them all over the field, and we were able to be successful and hold off after a tough start for the defense. When our offense is playing that well, it’s easy for us [on defense]. That was a great win for our program.”

On Wednesday, April 24, the Cards took on Conn. College for their final game of the regular season. Wes came in looking to get revenge on the Camels, who had eliminated them from postseason contention in the final game of last year’s regular season. Additionally, with a 7–2 NESCAC record, they sat one game behind second-place Bowdoin and looked to make one more pass at the Polar Bears. The Red and Black jumped out to a quick 2–0 lead, but the Camels came back and tied the game 5–5 early in the second quarter. Then the offense awoke, and Burns scored two goals in the closing minutes of the first half to put the Cards up 12–6. Although the Camels staged a late rally in the fourth quarter, it was not enough, as Wes secured the win 19–13. Several hours later, Bowdoin lost their final game of the season, meaning that Wesleyan secured the second seed for the NESCAC Championships. 

The win was huge for team morale and capped off a four-game win streak to end their most successful regular season since 2019.

On Saturday, the Cards will get another shot at Trinity in the NESCAC quarterfinals, and they want to make the most of the opportunity.

“I feel great entering the NESCAC Tournament,” Silver said. “Last year, unfortunately that was something we didn’t make, which is a big deal. That’s not really what this program is about. So we understand that you can’t take it for granted, and it’s super important to do well. It’s a privilege to be a part of, and we have to make the most of it. So now the goal for the team is to win the NESCAC Championship and set ourselves up well for the NCAA Tournament.”

Erin Byerly can be reached at ebyerly@wesleyan.edu

Ethan Lee can be reached at ejlee@wesleyan.edu