By Evan Wheaton
Tears filled the eyes of Springfield College men’s lacrosse head coach Keith Bugbee.
As he hugged Springfield College President Mary Beth Cooper, he felt utter peace.
No. 2 Springfield College men’s lacrosse defeated No. 1 Coast Guard in the 2019 NEWMAC Championship, 12-10. It is the Pride’s 12th consecutive conference crown. For both personal and team reasons, it was more than just a game for Bugbee.
“It meant everything,” Bugbee said. “I knew it was gonna be a dog fight.”
And a dog fight it was. Unlike the semifinal round against MIT, Springfield remained in control all game and Coast Guard never led for a second.
“It’s really hard to do in lacrosse,” Bugbee said. “Especially when you’re up by three. Three is that magic number, when you’re up by three, you try not to take your foot off the pedal, and we really didn’t.”
Senior Jack Vail had a monster performance and found the net four times. One goal was controversial after a clear attempt, in which Coast Guard challenged it.
“I saw that Tom (Nash) was running out and I saw that I had the goalie on me,” Vail said. “I tried to get open as best I could, luckily Connor Roberts threw an absolute seed right to me, goal was open, and it was easy from there.”
Vail was confident in the goal, and he never doubted his teammates for a second.
“I was definitely confident,” Vail said. “I trust my D, they make that out every time.”
Junior Joe Hawley also had a notable performance as he found the net three times.
“Basically, we were just finding the back side and I was pretty open all day,” Hawley said. “I have to commend my teammates, we were moving the ball all game, so fast. I ended up on the receiving end but it was an all around team effort on offense. We never doubted anybody or anything, it was a great job by our whole team.”
Cole Finerty has evolved tremendously over the course of the season. As a senior, his starting role developed through former goalie Jake Reynolds. Today, his training showed after making multiple point-blank saves.
“It was a lot of guess work,” Finerty said. “The thing is, I got put in a position where I was able to do that through coach (Jake) Reynolds’s training this year. I think the whole team was in the zone today and it was really easy to make some of those saves when I knew the rest of the team had my back.”
Despite Finerty’s efforts, Coast Guard midfielder Riley McNulty was a colossal weapon for the Bears. He tacked on five goals and kept the game tight all around.
“He’s just a handful,” Bugbee said. “There’s no wrapping him up. There’s no holding him down, we just have to make sure we can hold all the other guys down. He’s a tough shooter, smart kid, big. The zone forced him to shoot the ball further out which helped a lot.”
Like the MIT game, Springfield ran zone defense in the second half. By the fourth quarter, the Pride held a consistent rhythm that matched Coast Guard well.
“It seemed like we had an answer every time they scored,” Bugbee said. “That was huge, it’s so demoralizing for the other team. If we can do that, they’re momentum killers all the time.”
The win marked Bugbee’s 400thcareer win with Springfield College. He’s now the first ever coach to do it at the same college across all divisions. The win was even sweeter after facing a harsh non-conference schedule.
“We have a young team,” Bugbee said. “We played such a brutal out of conference schedule, and we certainly took our licks out of conference. Our conference has gotten so much better, not like the old days. I honestly felt (we were) like underdogs against a lot of our conference teams.”
The offense stepped up when they had to. The gas pedal was still held down ever since the fourth quarter of the semifinal round.
“This is what we’ve been doing the last three or four games,” Bugbee said. “We leave it in the tournament, timely goals. Needed goals. That’s what it really comes down to. When we really need to have it, we have it. Like tying MIT twice, timely goals.”
As the Chief Dawgs and their families mingled around the field taking pictures and passing the trophy around, Bugbee looked on with with as much pride in his team that a coach could ever feel.
“When it comes down to it,” Finerty said, “Dawgs come out on top.”
The Pride will now enjoy an automatic bid to the NCAA Division-III tournament. Springfield awaits its next opponent.
Photo courtesy Sam Leventhal