May 3, 2014

Three-Pete: Eastern Dumps DeSales

from press release

ST. DAVIDS, Pa. — Eastern Men's Lacrosse secured its third consecutive Freedom Conference Championship on Saturday afternoon after holding off the DeSales University Bulldogs 12-5.

The Eagles jumped to a 3-0 first-quarter lead, but the Bulldogs clawed their way back to knot the game at 3-3 with six minutes to go in the second quarter. Andrew Travers scored the go-ahead goal with 2:41 left in the second, but the momentum really shifted when Grant Ferguson scored on a scramble play with five seconds remaining before halftime, putting Eastern up 5-3. Coming out of the locker room, Eastern netted five straight goals to put a comfortable distance between them and the Bulldogs.

With the championship win, the Eagles improved to 14-4. Because the Freedom Conference does not yet have an automatic bid into the 29-team NCAA tournament, the Eagles will have to wait until Sunday night at 10 p.m. to find out if their quality wins are enough to get them to the dance.

Junior attack Dave Darling took home Most Outstanding Player honors for the Freedom Conference Tournament after scoring three goals on Saturday and assisting two more. Darling had also recorded 11 points in Tuesday's semifinal game. Darling commented that the Eagles might have let off the gas a little in the second quarter when DeSales, who has never played in a lacrosse championship, made a comeback. "We let that go to our heads in the first half," Darling said. "And we looked like that team (that had never been here before). They came to play and we definitely had to wake ourselves up at halftime."

Eagles' head coach Kevin Wallace gave the team a wake-up call at halftime, but his message was to relax be smart with the ball. The Eagles had turned the ball over seven times in the second quarter. "We were trying to force too much in the first half to make things happen instead of just letting the offense come together," he said. "We slowed down, played our style and things started coming together quickly in the third quarter."

Darling facilitated the Eagles' third quarter offense, finding Cody Ridgway for two man-up goals and also scoring two goals on his own after rolling the crease. Eric Waibel scored with 7:59 to play in the third to cap off Eastern's seven-goal streak and to make it a 10-3 game. DeSales responded with two goals in the end of the third, but in the fourth, Eastern's Tim Lamb netted a nasty scoop shot with 7:33 left and Grant Ferguson tallied his 60th goal of the year with 3:28 to go to bring the score to 12-5.

Ferguson scored twice in the win and added an assist, upping his season points total to 78. Darling, with three goals and two helpers has 90 points for the year.

Andrew Travers netted two goals as did Cody Ridgway. Andy Jameson scored once and had two assists, Tim Lamb scored once, and Eric Waibel had a goal and an assist.

At the X, faceoff specialist Matt Lee was perfect, winning 12-of-12 faceoffs. Lee is one of the top faceoff guys in the nation this season, winning 69.2 percent of his attempts. Eagles' goalie Pat Groschan commented that Lee's dominance on faceoffs was like playing "make it, take it" where every time the Eagles scored, they got the ball right back.

Groschan had a strong day in between the pipes, stifling 11 shots on goal. Groschan, a senior, who became an everyday starter just this season has the Eagles to all 14 of their wins this year. "He played great," head coach Kevin Wallace said. "He's been waiting his whole life for this opportunity so I'm so proud of him that he stayed the course and stayed focused. He made a lot of big saves. He knew it was his moment and he took full advantage of it."

One important statistic category to note is the ground ball category. The Eagles dominated with 43 ground balls to DeSales' 18. At halftime, the Eagles only led 16-12 in that category. Lee and Ferguson corralled six ground balls each, Shawn Farmer, Eric Waibel and Jordan Norris each grabbed five, and Dave Darling and Ryan Mitchell both had four.

Defensively, Mitchell, Darling, and Norris caused two turnovers and Tyler Gehlhaus had a game-high three caused turnovers.

For the Bulldogs, five different guys had goals: Lance Bracale, Justin Wilson, James Guerrier, Nate Blevins and Jake McNamara. Goalie Matt Warnken recorded 14 saves.

The Eagles will gather as a team on Sunday at 10 p.m. to watch the NCAA's selection show.

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