April 26, 2014

Whittam, Williams End Middlebury's Season

from press release

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - The Men's Lacrosse Team (10-6, 6-4) defeated Middlebury College (8-8, 6-4) 13-9 in today's first round of the NESCAC Tournament. Dan Whittam contributed with 13 saves, while Jack Lauroesch had three goals and two assists. Though the Panthers' season has come to a close, the Ephs are gaining momentum that will help them excel in next weekend's semi-final round.

The two teams had squared off only three days earlier, in Wednesday's contest at Middlebury. It was the last regularly scheduled contest before postseason play was to begin, and it had a crucial role in ranking the NESCAC squads.

Williams clinched Wednesday's win on the road with a score of 9-7, though on paper the teams were closely matched. Today, the stakes were raised. Williams had the home field advantage, and Middlebury arrived hungry for revenge.

Williams made a statement immediately, winning the initial face off and gaining offensive control. After only 1:05 of play, Steven Kiesel netted that critical first goal. Jack Lauroesch followed up a few minutes later, and with 12:10 remaining in the quarter, the Ephs had a 2-0 lead.

Panther Tim Giarrusso scored an unassisted goal moments later, following a ground ball pickup in the midfield. This would be the team's only point for the remainder of the first half.

The goal disrupted the Ephs' momentum. They received a penalty moments later, and struggled to regain possession. Middlebury would fire off several shots, only to miss the cage or get deflected by Whittam.

Williams called a timeout with 10:05 remaining, hoping to regroup. After a few more minutes of play, Jack Lauroesch found the back of the net once more. The 3-1 lead startled the opposing Panthers, who collected back-to-back penalties for rough play before the quarter wrapped.

Williams was on a roll in the second quarter, tallying two goals in the first five minutes. The Ephs' defense was extremely solid, slowing the Panthers' momentum with a number of forced turnovers. They also executed many successful clears, creating opportunities for their teammates on attack.

The Ephs took several shots before a pair of first-years tallied the next point. Thomas Fowler assisted Michael Fahey with only 19 seconds remaining. At the half, Williams had a comfortable 6-1 lead.

With a team as strong as Middlebury, Williams knew that letting their guard down would be a mistake. So when the Panthers scored two early goals in the third quarter, they stepped up their game, and tallied two more of their own, including Lauroesch's second of the day.

Though they won the next face off, Williams lost possession again, and Middlebury assumed offensive control for a number of minutes. A series of unsuccessful offensive plays eventually yielded another goal for the Panthers' Tim Giarrusso.

Prolific scorer Tanner MacIvor collected a teammate's rebound to net the final goal of the third quarter. It was 9-4 with 4:06 remaining.

Dan Whittam was tested for the final minutes leading up to the fourth quarter, but made a number of important saves.

The fourth quarter was a battle, with each team constantly trading goals. Middlebury made it clear that they were not giving in. They outscored the Ephs 5 to 4 in that quarter, but it was not enough to come back.

Jon Broome scored Middlebury's fifth goal less than 30 seconds into the quarter, taking advantage of a man-up situation.

Almost immediately, Eph Joe Kinney found the back of the net. Minutes later, Conor Roddy followed Kinney's lead.

The rest of the fourth quarter was just as active offensively, with each team fighting to score. Both Gaudio and Whittam saw a lot of action in the final minutes, and both keepers stepped up nicely.

Middlebury went on a three-goal run, including a second for Broome and a third for Giarusso. With the score at 12-9, the Ephs knew that they needed to hang on to their lead. Each side got increasingly physical as tension heightened.

Williams called a time out with 10 seconds remaining in the game, though their fate was clear. Michael Fahey snuck in a thirteenth goal two seconds before time expired. After a long, fierce battle, the Ephs were victorious.

"The offense really stepped up today, and the defense followed," Coach McCormack explained. "Even when Middlebury started to make a comeback, we hung in there. I'm proud of the way we played."

Despite leading for the entire game, the Ephs tallied fewer ground balls and won fewer face offs than their opponents. They outshot the Panthers 44 to 40, and had 6 less turnovers. Whittam made a significant difference with 13 saves to Gaudio's 8. As with most NESCAC contests, today's was extremely competitive.

The Ephs, ranked #4, are looking forward to playing #1 Tufts next weekend. They upset the Jumbos earlier this season.

"The guys are looking forward to being a part of championship weekend, and spending at least another week together," Coach McCormack commented.

Williams will spend this week preparing for their game against Tufts this Saturday, May 3.

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