For the tenth season in a row, the Springfield College men’s lacrosse team will be playing in the NEWMAC championship game. The team earned its spot in the game with an exciting 12-8 win over Babson on Wednesday night.
When the No. 1 seed plays the No. 4 seed, the gut reaction of fans and potentially players is that the win will come with ease. Babson did not let that thought sink into the minds of the Pride.
“There has never been a first round game like this,” Bugbee said. “This game had a championship feel to it from the second the game started. I think Babson is a good team. They might have tumbled in a couple games that got them into the fourth seed. They are a really good team and they came to play. It never was easy thats for sure.”
From the start Babson was aggressive on offense. The Beavers took several runs at the net and moved the ball around the outside quickly to try and create a seam to expose. Babson’s Connor Flaherty eventually broke through the interior of the defense and finished up close to put Babson on the board with 6:04 left in the first quarter. Springfield’s Jack Vail followed the goal up 1:17 later after receiving the ball in the head of his stick after it was knocked loose by a Beavers stick check on Tim Cozens. Babson’s Flaherty and Owen Allen scored before the end of the quarter to give Babson a 3-1 lead heading into the second quarter.
Starting in the second quarter, it looked like the Beavers would keep the goals coming. After quickly moving the ball around the outer layer of the defense, Allen found himself undefended and put a shot into the back of the net to increase Babson’s lead. In the next six minutes, in response to Babson’s quick run, Springfield proceeded to go on a four goal run (Ty Daugstrup, Vail, Anthony Zabielski, Lucas Habich) to give the Pride a 5-4 lead. Allen would score once more with 1:33 left in the half to make the score 5-5 going into the break.
The Pride’s offense is known for their electric bursts of goals in its games. Zabielski believes those bursts don’t come out of selfish individual efforts. It starts and ends with the team.
“We talk about working for each other every day in practice and when we go out on the field everything we do is to help each other out,” he said. “It’s not about one person going to the rack and doing all of it. It’s about creating a slide and getting it to your teammate, then they can bang the ball around and look for a good shot.”
Springfield would go on another three goal run midway through the third quarter (Scott Rogers, Duncan Preston, Philip Dumont). Brendan Dooley also scored for the Pride early in the period. Babson was able to muster up two goals (Axel Brown, Brendan Duffy) in the quarter compared to Springfield’s four. The score sat at 9-7 heading into the final quarter.
Zabielski and Brown traded goals in the first seven minutes to make the score 10-8 heading into the last eight minutes. Springfield, who was man-down four times in the contest, was man-up for their last two goals (Habich and Vail) to pull away and solidify the win.
Vail finished the game with three goals and three assists. The sophomore attackman has taken on a big role in the Pride’s offense this season compared to last season (finished his freshman year with one goal and six assists).
“He is profoundly different from last year. He has really stepped his game up a lot,” said Springfield head coach Keith Bugbee. “He is one of those funny guys that gets quiet points. I didn’t realize that he had [three goals and three assists] today. He is very steady. Playing attack is a lot of pressure for a young kid. A lot of things happen at full speed. You have to make very quick decisions. He is doing great.”
Springfield will now take on Clark in the NEWMAC championship on Saturday.
“Their [midfielders] are really good. They’ve got a lot of firepower up top” Bugbee said. “If we extend them and give them time in space they are dangerous. They are a really good team. Just like Babson they are very well coached. They are hungry right now and they are going to come flying in here. This is definitely the farthest they have ever been and they’re going to want to keep it going. Their coach told me after [our last game] that he feels we bet them in every single category. So that will be locker room material for them to outwork us in ground balls and try to improve in every other category.”