Panther men’s lacrosse picks up pivotal victory

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s lacrosse team bounced back from a pair of one-goal road losses, both against teams ranked in the top 20 in NCAA Division III, to defeat another ranked team on Saturday — Amherst, 17-14, at home.
The Panthers (5-4, 3-2 in NESCAC) are ranked No. 12 because of a schedule that has included four losses to top 13 teams by a total of five goals.
On Saturday they scored five straight times to close out the first half and take a 9-4 lead against an Amherst team that came in ranked at No. 4, but dropped to No. 7 in this week’s poll. Middlebury led by as many as seven goals before settling for the three-goal win over Amherst (7-2, 3-1 in NESCAC play).
Saturday’s loss followed an 11-10 Wednesday setback to No. 2 R.I.T. in a game played in Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome and a 9-8 loss at No. 13 Bowdoin the previous Saturday. In that game the Panthers outshot the Polar Bears, 39-27, but ran into a hot goalie.
The Panthers’ other losses came to No. 3 Tufts, 12-10, and to No. 8 St. Lawrence in double overtime, games in which the Panthers also owned significant statistical advantages.
Coach Dave Campbell said in a Tuesday interview his team has been in every game, but things haven’t always gone Middlebury’s way. Campbell said he had told the Panthers last week that Saturday’s Amherst game was pivotal and to expect another close game, but at the same time said they had to play relaxed.
“If you fear being in a close game and you tighten up, things probably aren’t going to go your way,” Campbell said. “But if you’re excited about the opportunity and you’re not afraid of making mistakes in those moments and you embrace that, you’ll come out with a win. And I think our guys embraced that.”
One key to the win was a player who has been a constant for the Panthers this season, faceoff specialist John Jackson. This season Jackson has won 58 percent of his faceoffs, and on Saturday he prevailed on 23 of 32. Campbell said he sparked the decisive second-quarter surge.
“It started with him,” Campbell said. “We were having dominant possessions and turning them into goals, not just winning the faceoffs, coming down and having them get a stop. We were scoring a lot of goals and getting it right back, so it really started with John. He did a phenomenal job, and up to this point in the season he’s probably our MVP.”
Middlebury also benefited on Saturday from another team strength this spring, balanced scoring. In all nine Panthers found the net vs. Amherst: Henry Riehl (four goals, two assists), Jack Rautiola (three goals, an assist), Jack Gould and Cedric Rhodes (two goals and an assist each), Kyle Soroka and Tim Giarrusso (two goals each), and Sean Carroll and Jon Broome (a goal and two assists each).
Overall, Carroll, Gould and Riehl lead Middlebury in scoring with 15 goals apiece; Giarrusso has 11; four other Panthers have scored at least seven apiece; and Broome leads the way with 17 assists.
“We have a lot of playmakers up and down the roster,” Campbell said.
In the decisive second-quarter surge on Saturday, Rautiola scored three times, and Giarrusso and Gould provided the other goals. All five of those strikes were assisted, two by Riehl.
The Panthers grew the lead to 17-10 with 10:28 to go in the fourth before Amherst rattled off four goals in the next 3:27, but Campbell said Middlebury reasserted itself down the stretch.
“We’ve found a way to make a lot of games interesting this year. They’re an explosive team offensively, and we gave them some opportunities, and they cashed in on them,” he said. “But finally we stopped the bleeding.”
Panther goalie Will Ernst stopped six shots, while Amherst’s Cody Tranberger made a dozen saves. The Panthers out-shot Amherst, 45-30, and won the ground-ball battle, 42-32, as defender Jack DeFrino picked up four ground balls. DeFrino and fellow defender Jon Hurvitz both caused two turnovers. Eric Rogers and Dylan Fowler joined Hurvitz starting at low defense.
Moving ahead, Campbell said that defensive group has done well adjusting to a new, more aggressive style of defense the coaching staff has put into place this season — the Panthers are doubling the ball more often, a tactic that means the off-ball defenders must move quickly into position to cover openings.
Campbell sees steady improvement, but said more is necessary, especially in unsettled situations following turnovers or in transition situations.
“Defensively we have to continue to tighten things up. We’re doing some new things on defense, and the mistakes we’re making, and this is the same thing in any sport, are just mental things in the heat of the moment,” he said.
Offensively, Campbell is preaching more poise if the Panthers are to finish the regular season strong — starting with Saturday’s 1 p.m. visit by No. 6 Bates — and make a postseason run.
“We need to continue to work for the shots we want and not let a defense dictate to us what we’re getting. We’re good enough that if we’re patient we should be able to generate great looks on offense,” he said.
But overall, Campbell sees far more pluses moving forward: The strong effort vs. R.I.T. on the road and the home win vs. Amherst have shown the Panthers’ potential.
“I think we have all the pieces. I think the guys are playing with a tremendous amount of confidence now,” Campbell said, “I think they brought that to practice last night and hopefully we can carry that going forward.”
Andy Kirkaldymay be reached at [email protected].

Share this story:

More News
US Probation Office Uncategorized

US Probation Office Request for Proposals

US Probation Office 2×1.5 062024 RFP

Middlebury American Legion Uncategorized

Middlebury American Legion Annual Meeting

Middlebury American Legion 062024 1×1.5 Annual Meeting

Sports Uncategorized

MAV girls’ lax nets two triumphs

The Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative girls’ lacrosse team moved over .500 with a pair o … (read more)

Share this story: