In a game pitting two teams with identical records that were separated by one spot in the national rankings against each other, the Pride (11-3) overwhelmed the Golden Bears (10-4) early and shut them down late to win 10-5.
“If you’re coming in on a game like this, there’s a lot of emotions involved, so to step down on them real quick, it’s a big thing,” senior midfielder and co-captain Shane Ferguson said. “There was a lot of anticipation for the game. Nobody, even on the current staff except for [Keith] Bugbee, has beaten this team.”
The Springfield College men’s lacrosse team renewed what had become a one-sided rivalry by beating their neighbor for the first time since 2006. They scored four unanswered goals in the first quarter by outplaying Western New England on the offensive end.
The Pride kept the ball on WNE’s side and pounded goalkeeper Brandon Body with a barrage of shots, keeping him off-balanced and ultimately sending the frustrated freshman to an early exit after senior co-captain midfielder/attackman Mike Delia (two goals, assist) ripped a shot in the upper corner with 7:25 left in the first quarter.
“I think we just focused on trying to play 60 good minutes of lacrosse, and for us, to get out of the gate is huge. I did not want to get down by a couple of goals to a team like this,” head coach Keith Bugbee said. “We just believed that we could beat this team.”
Senior midfielder Eric Balslov started off the scoring for the Pride during his first action of the game. The senior quickly got himself in a good position and put his shot in the back of the net. Balslov added another goal later in the first quarter.
Ferguson was the biggest beneficiary of a disciplined and relentless attack, tallying four goals and two assists on the afternoon.
“Moving off-ball was huge today,” Ferguson said. “We had a couple of plays where they were shutting us off, so off-ball moving was huge [in] getting the ball around.”
The Golden Bears finally got on the board approximately two minutes into the second quarter when junior midfielder James Reardon found the back of SC’s net. The Golden Bears got as close as 5-3 at halftime, but could not cut into the lead any further due to the outstanding play of the Pride’s swarming man-to-man defense.
“The last three or four weeks we’ve just gotten so much more aggressive in the way we play. Now we’re extending on teams, and really mixing it up, putting pressure on the ball a lot more,” Bugbee said.
Whenever a Golden Bear did manage to get an open look, their shots were sent in nearly every direction except the back of the net as sophomore goalkeeper Rob Maher. Maher only allowed five goals, while making 16 saves.
“Rob Maher is playing unbelievable right now,” Bugbee said. “I mean, statistically, going into this game he was number two in the country in save percentage.”
Senior co-captain and defenseman Tim Cimini put the finishing touches on the game by snagging a rebound off a Maher save and running the length of the field before blowing a shot past WNE’s Brewster Knowlton, for his first collegiate goal.
The Pride have one game remaining at Babson on Saturday at 6 p.m., and will have to regain the focus they had entering this game in order to secure the top seed in the quickly-approaching Pilgrim League Tournament.
“We can’t take Babson lightly. That’s the most important thing. No matter what, we’ve got to win our league,” Bugbee said. “We’ve just got to make sure we play our ‘A’ game.”
Joe Brown may be reached at email@example.com