Men’s Lacrosse Edges Out Springfield and Colby
By Brenton Arnaboldi '14, Managing Sports Editor
The magical moments keep coming for the red-hot men’s lacrosse team, which is putting together a season to remember. The No. 10 Jeffs pulled out two thrilling comeback wins last week, earning 7-6 victories over Springfield and Colby. Channeling their inner Houdini, the Jeffs faced early 3-0 deficits in both games, but battled back and scored clutch goals in last-minute situations. The surging Jeffs (11-1 overall, 6-1 NESCAC)have not lost since a season-opening defeat to No 1. Tufts on Mar. 12. Saturday’s victory over Colby propelled Amherst into sole possession of second place in the NESCAC standings.

Perhaps more important, the Colby win eliminated a potential distraction. First-year head coach Jon Thompson, widely regarded as the catalyst behind the Jeffs’ resurgence this season, left Colby last summer to come to Amherst. Even as the Jeffs slogged to underachieving campaigns in 2009 and 2010, Thompson saw a talent-laden roster with the potential to win a national championship.

Thompson’s influence has fueled a remarkable turnaround, as the Jeffs’ current 11-1 record represents a vast improvement over last season’s 7-7 mark. Off the field, Thompson has completely changed the culture of the Amherst lacrosse program, instilling discipline and accountability while dispelling the typical “frat boy” image associated with lacrosse players.

His return to Colby thus served as a compelling subplot for Saturday’s clash between the Mules and Jeffs. The weekend contest featured an emotionally charged atmosphere, as the Mules played frenetic, vigorous lacrosse to ‘prove’ to Thompson that he made the wrong decision to ‘defect’ from Colby. While the home fans heckled Thompson with signs reading “Moral Compass, South,” most of the Colby lacrosse players actually embraced their ex-coach after the game. During his tenure at Colby, Thompson turned around a struggling program.

The motivated Mules came out firing from the onset, and Amherst struggled to match Colby’s intensity in the first quarter. Colby jumped out to a 3-0 lead, throwing the Jeffs into their second three-goal deficit in as many games. Amherst erased the gap with three consecutive goals, and tied the game with 11 minutes left in the second quarter. Colby regained its two-goal cushion later in the period, however, and carried a 5-3 lead into halftime.

The Jeffs’ defense, however, went into complete lockdown mode in the second half, and nearly held Colby goalless for 30 minutes " an eternity in lacrosse. Spurred by this stingy defensive effort, the Jeffs slowly clawed their way back into contention, and led 6-5 after first-year Devin Acton’s goal with 11:12 remaining. The desperate Mules, however, did not give up, scoring with 24 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime.

As the first extra session drew to a close, the stage was set for late-game heroics from an unlikely source. With 1.4 seconds left in overtime, Beda Cha ’14 fired a quick shot past the opposing goalkeeper, sending the Jeffs into a state of jubilation. The dramatic game-winning tally marked just the second goal Cha has scored all season.

Over the course of the game, Colby was relentless on the attack, firing a total of 54 shots on the day. The White Mules pulverized Amherst at the faceoff spot, winning 14 of 17 draws to dominate time of ball possession. Amherst managed only 24 shots, but junior Sam Jakimo’s rock-solid goaltending (16 saves) enabled the Jeffs to keep the score close.

Earlier in the week, the Jeffs slipped by a tough Springfield team, overcoming another 3-0 deficit to earn a 7-6 victory. The first nine minutes of the contest went scoreless, but Springfield exploded with three goals in a span of 4:16 to take a commanding lead. The Jeffs responded immediately, however, with Alex Fox ’12 and Cherney scoring in the final two minutes of the opening quarter to cut the gap to 3-2.

Acton then scored two man-advantage goals in the second quarter to give Amherst a 4-3 half-time lead. After conceding the three-goal outburst, the Jeffs’ defense stifled the opposition by clogging up the slot area, therefore restricting shots to the perimeter. Springfield went 26 minutes without scoring a goal.

The contest remained a defensive grind in the third quarter, as Springfield’s late equalizer was the only goal in the 15-minute period. The action intensified in the final quarter, however, as both teams found more breathing room on offense.

Springfield grabbed a 5-4 lead in the fourth quarter, but Acton scored his third and fourth goals of the contest midway through the period to give Amherst a 6-5 edge. After the Pride tied it at 6-6 with around 4:06 remaining, the Jeffs pressed forward in the final minutes, and were rewarded when Cherney scored the game-winning goal with 2:46 left in regulation. Amherst’s tenacious defense then held strong to preserve the victory.

Issue 23, Submitted 2011-04-20 04:44:46