By Evan Wheaton
No. 2 Springfield College will host No. 3 MIT tonight at 7pm for the NEWMAC Championship Semifinals. There is more to play for tonight besides maintaining the currently 11-year long streak of winning out the conference.
The Pride will have a little extra motivation heading into the game tonight, as they were reminded on Monday of their Team IMPACT draft, Alex Blais.
“Our son, Alex Blais, was drafted by the men’s lacrosse team after his diagnosis,” Margaret and Wayne Blaise said in a joint statement. “Alex’s ‘brothers’ participated in Team Alex’s activities, and most importantly, were there to support him through his fight.”
The Blaise family was brought into the locker room and were presented with a framed “Springfield 1” board.
With two sisters, Blais had always wanted a brother. After being drafted on Mar. 3, 2017, he received a whole team of brothers, and he cherished every minute in their company.
“Alex loved hanging out with the guys, especially at practices, games, and movie nights at his house,” the Blaise family said. “Unfortunately, Alex passed away after a 30-month fight. The team has surrounded our family with love and support since day one and and continues to do so. We are so very thankful for our partnership with Springfield College men’s lacrosse through Team IMPACT.”
His legacy will live on with the team as they continue to honor Blais on and off the field.
“He’ll always be a team member,” Springfield head coach Keith Bugbee said. “He used to come to a lot of games last year. He would give out high fives, just a wonderful boy and a wonderful family.”
The Pride will have Blaise in their minds and in their hearts tonight when they take the field.
It could be a tight rematch.
Tonight will be a big test for the midfield group. In their last meeting on April 20, which resulted in a 16-15 OT win, MIT dominated in faceoffs. Joseph Cameron went 2-14, Matt D’Andrea went 8-19, and Anthony Sullivan had just one faceoff, which was secured by MIT.
“Faceoffs were really challenging, their guy was really good,” Bugbee said. “It was a battle.”
Cameron is undoubtedly having the best season of his three years on the Pride. MIT proved to be a bump in the road in this regard, although he’s been preparing mentally and physically for the rematch at Stagg.
“Their faceoff man was good, he had a great day a few weeks ago but he is definitely not unbeatable,” Cameron said. “I’ll be taking a look at film this week and maybe deciding to throw a different move at him, but there is no doubt that if I do what I’ve done all season I’ll give my team the best chance to win.”
Cole Pecora scored the game winning shot. The offense made plays when they had to.
“We played them really good offensively pretty much all day,” Bugbee said. “I thought the defense settled down as the game went on. We came out and played some zone again.”
Kyle Murakami will be notable tonight after stepping up big to score a man-down goal with five minutes left to tie the game 2-2 before halftime.
Faceoffs and midfield battles have been strong all season, although they’ve been focal points of improvement since the last meeting.
Unlike the previous meeting, the game will be here at Stagg field.
“MIT being right in Boston, there’s a lot going on, a lot of distractions that could come our way,” Murakami said. “When we played there last time, not as an excuse, but there’d be a track meet, a tennis tournament, and a bunch of stuff going on. Definitely excited to have them on our own field.”
No. 4 Clark defeated No. 5 Babson on Tuesday, so they’ll be hosted by No. 1 Coast Guard tonight for the semi final round of the NEWMAC tournament.
Last year, Coast Guard only got the No. 1 seed on a tie-breaking coin flip against Springfield. The competition has been increasing throughout the years.
“You just gotta show up,” Bugbee said. “I was sharing with my guys the other day, I was reading out a bunch of scores, and there were some crazy tight games from all over the map. I try to tell these guys every single year, in our particular league, we’ve had so much success in years past that they’re gonna play their Super Bowl against you. We’ve gotta return that, it’s our Super Bowl too.”
MIT is coming off of a two-game win streak after beating Babson (13-12) and defeating Clark (13-10) on the road. As far as Springfield is concerned, MIT knows the Pride well.
It’s no surprise that MIT presented so many challenges in their last meeting. Second-year MIT head coach Tyler O’Keef is one of Bugbee’s former players.
“Just because we beat them in the past, it means nothing,” Bugbee said. “Ever since Tyler (O’Keef) got there, he’s done a really good job. They’re really well-coached, disciplined, they’re tough. Right after our game, they beat two really good teams.”
The Pride will take to Stagg Field at 7pm tonight.
Photo courtesy Evan Wheaton