Panther men's lacrosse outlasts Ephs

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s lacrosse team on this past Saturday held off visiting Williams, 14-13, in a NESCAC quarterfinal.

In the semifinal round this coming Saturday in Amherst, Mass., Middlebury (12-4), the third seed, will meet second-seeded and defending NESCAC and NCAA Division III champion Tufts (14-2) at 3 p.m. Top-seeded Amherst (15-1) will battle fifth-seeded Bates (10-4) at noon, and the winners will meet on Sunday.

The Panthers’ win avenges a 14-11 road loss to the Ephs (9-6) three days before. Panther middie John Jackson had a huge impact in the victory with career-highs in both faceoffs won (27 of 30) and groundballs (20).

Middlebury strung three goals together for a 4-1 lead late in the first quarter. Defender Cal Williams started the run with a dodge through traffic for a backhanded shot at 7:47. The visitors ended the first quarter with a pair of goals, capped by Steven Kiesel’s second of his game-high seven goals at 0:13.

The Panthers opened the second quarter with two more goals, as Sean Carroll made it 6-3 on a man-up tally off a feed by Joel Blockowitz at 9:32. Williams again closed the quarter with two goals, including Kiesel’s third at 6:47, and Middlebury took a 6-5 lead into halftime.

After the teams exchanged goals to begin the third quarter, the Panthers ran off three scores for a 10-6 advantage at the 6:06 mark. Jack Rautiola, Jack Cleary and Carroll gave Middlebury its first four-goal cushion of the day.

Williams struck back with its own three-goal run, highlighted by two tallies from Kiesel, the second coming with only 22 seconds to play in the quarter and making it 10-9.

In the fourth quarter, Eric Soroka gave the hosts a two-goal lead at 14:06. The Ephs sliced it to one goal at 11:52. Jackson won the ensuing faceoff, grabbed the groundball, and took it to the crease for a goal that sparked a decisive three-goal run. Henry Riehl put a rebound past Ephs’ goalie Dan Whittman at 10:30, while Eric Rogers made it a 14-10 lead on a give-and-go from Jon Broome with 7:01 left to play.

The Ephs scored the next three goals as Kiesel netted a pair including his seventh and final goal of the game at 1:56.

Jackson won the following faceoff for Middlebury, but the Panthers turned the ball over deep in their offensive zone with just over a minute to play. After Williams cleared the ball, Kiesel earned a clear, midrange shot, but Panther goalie Will Ernst made a save on the game-tying attempt and the Panthers ran out the clock.

The Panthers outshot the Ephs 50-40, and Carroll netted four of his five attempts to lead his team. Tim Giarrusso had two goals, while Rautiola had a goal and two helpers. Besides Jackson’s 20 groundballs, Cal Williams added seven groundballs, as Middlebury collected 55 groundballs to Williams’ 23. Ernst (12-4) made 14 saves.

Kiesel led all scorers with seven goals, one off the NESCAC tournament record set by Broome in 2013. Whittman made 15 saves for Williams.

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