Everyone loves an overtime thriller. Nails get chewed off, heart rates shoot up, and players fight through the cramps, as sweat drips off their chins in an attempt to grind out a win. For the winning team, it’s great; there’s no better feeling. But for the losing team, the cramps hurt more, and looks of disappointment fill the faces of the athletes.
The Springfield College men’s lacrosse team has had three overtime battles, winning two and dropping one. Overtime in lacrosse is interesting and perhaps loaded with more pressure than overtimes in other sports because there are no second chances. The first goal wins. Then, you either dog pile at mid-field or meander your way to the sideline, head down, heart sad.
“Overtime games, man, they’re brutal,” Coach Keith Bugbee said. “Great to win, but brutal to lose, you know?”
After losing to Union in the extra period on a hidden ball trick in March, Springfield was down 11-8 with 7:30 remaining in the game seven days later against Endicott. After goals from Brendan Dooley and Dom Abate, the Pride were within one with 4:20 to play. Then, just over a minute later, Dooley fired a pass to Kevin Dean who whipped it into the back of the net for the equalizer… overtime again.
Endicott won the faceoff, and started down field in their attack. However, that attack was seized as Jake Versprille forced a turnover and raced towards Endicott’s net. Versprille slung a pass to Tom Hurley who found the back of the net. 43 seconds into overtime, the comeback victory was completed.
Exactly two weeks later on April 2, Springfield put the wheels up to Babson College for a 2015 NEWMAC Championship rematch. After three fourth-quarter goals, the Pride were once again headed to overtime.
Perhaps the most important player on the field in overtime is the faceoff man. If he wins the faceoff, one possession could end it. If he loses the faceoff, the same could happen for the opponent. Face-offs are unique in the sense that in almost no other sport, is there an opportunity for possession after a score. In basketball, the other team automatically gets the ball after a score. In football, the scoring team kicks off to the other team. Having a quality faceoff man is colossal. For Springfield, it’s Tyler Heckman.
“After a goal, it’s a 50-50 ball now,” Bugbee said. “So you could score, get the ball back, score, get the ball back. What a difference it makes if you have a dominant faceoff guy.”
Heckman lined up for the faceoff in the overtime period. In regulation, Springfield controlled 16 face-offs to Babson’s four. The Pride needed one more from Heckman, and he produced. After one minute of controlled possession, Tim Cozens ripped a shot past goalie Jordan Shapiro to put it in the books: another overtime win for the Pride.
“It’s never, ever, been an easy place to win,” Bugbee said. “We’ve had a lot of tight games there. We easily could’ve lost that one. We’ve seen better teams, but we haven’t seen anyone play tougher against us.”
Cozens had the game-winner, so he gets the praise, but if Heckman didn’t dominate the face-offs and give Springfield opportunity after opportunity, the outcome could have been very different.
“He was a fringe player,” Bugbee said of Heckman. “We weren’t sure what his role was going to be, but he has really worked on his faceoff. He’s worked real hard and has gotten better and better each year.”
The Pride head to Mass. Maritime on Saturday, and if the game goes to overtime, they’ll be ready to play under the pressure.