NESCAC CHAMPS! Men’s Lacrosse Rallies to Defeat Middlebury, 9-8

Photo by Brewster Burns / Courtesy of Bates College
Photo by Brewster Burns / Courtesy of Bates College

THE BASICS:

Score: Wesleyan 9, Middlebury 8
Records: Wesleyan (16-1, 9-1 NESCAC); Middlebury (9-9, 4-6 NESCAC)
Location: Lewiston, Maine (Garcelon Field)
Date: Sunday, May 7
Time: 12 p.m.
The Lead: Trailing the majority of the game, the second-seeded Wesleyan University men's lacrosse team rallied in the second half to defeat sixth-seeded Middlebury College in a thrilling NESCAC Championship game, 9-8. Harry Stanton '18 scored the game-winner with 4:58 to play in regulation as the Cardinals captured their second conference title in program history, and first since 2009.

FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Wesleyan got on the board first after more than eight minutes of scoreless action as Stanton connected with Taylor Ghesquiere '18 at the 6:15 mark.
  • However, Middlebury responded minutes later as AJ Kucinski evened the score with 2:44 to play, and a goal by Danny Jacobs with :02 on the clock gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead entering the second quarter.
  • Middlebury increased its lead to two with 12:48 on the clock, before Christian Barker '19 ended the run just over a minute later to get within one, 3-2.
  • The Panthers went on a 3-0 stretch to end the half, however, and a goal by Wes Quinzani with :12 remaining gave the six-seed a 6-2 halftime lead.
  • Kucinski led all players in the first half with three points on one goal and two assists.

SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS:

  • It was a different story in the second half as Wesleyan held the Panthers to a mere two goals, while keeping them scoreless in the fourth quarter.
  • Ghesquiere scored the first goal of the half at the 13:23 mark to cut the deficit to three.
  • However, Middlebury responded a minute later to regain a four-goal lead.
  • The Cardinals scored back-to-back man-up goals at the 7:57 and 6:24 marks by Ghesquiere and Tom Martello '20, respectively, and after both teams exchanged goals in the final minutes, Wesleyan found itself down two (8-6) entering the fourth.
  • The final fifteen minutes of the game were all Cardinals as they outscored Middlebury, 3-0.
  • Carter Hawthorne '19 connected with Christian Barker '19 for a man-up goal at the 10:56 mark, and Barker returned the favor two minutes later as Hawthorne knotted the game at 8-8 with 8:48 to play.
  • Stanton scored the game-winner with 4:58 remaining, and the Cardinals denied Middlebury's final attempt to even the score down the stretch as they claimed the thrilling come-from-behind victory.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS:

  • Barker led the Cardinals with four points (2g, 2a), while Ghesquiere added a game-high three goals. Stanton finished with two goals and one assist, and Hawthorne registered one goal, two assists and a team-high five ground balls. Andres Rodriguez '18 led all players with three caused turnovers, and Ted Bergman '17 was terrific in net with 12 saves.
  • Middlebury was led offensively by Kucinski, who finished with one goal and four assists, while Jacobs scored twice and dished out an assist. Jake Madnick led all players with six ground balls, and goalie Charles Midgley stopped 13 shots.
  • Welseyan held a 35-28 edge in ground balls and went 16-of-18 on clear attempts. The Cardinals also capitalized on Middlebury's penalties and went 5-of-6 on man-up opportunities. The Panthers were 1-of-6.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE:

  • Wesleyan has appeared in the NESCAC title game seven times, which is the third most by any program in the conference.
  • The Cardinals are now 2-5 all-time in the championship game. It was also their first win against Middlebury in the finals, having lost four times against the Panthers from 2004-07.
  • The victory extends the Cardinals' winning streak to 17.
  • Wesleyan knocked off seven-time defending NESCAC Champions Tufts yesterday and today became the first program other than the Jumbos to win the crown since 2009 – the year the Cardinals won their first-ever title.

UP NEXT:

  • Wesleyan has earned the automatic berth from the NESCAC in the 2017 NCAA Division III Championships, and return to the postseason tournament for the first time since 2009. The Cardinals await their seeding in the bracket, which will be announced during the selection show tonight at 9 p.m. on NCAA.com.