By Evan Wheaton
The streak is still alive.
No. 2 Springfield College defeated No. 3 MIT 14-13 in an overtime thriller at Stagg Field Thursday night in the semifinal round of the men’s lacrosse NEWMAC tournament.
Senior Ray McCarthy scored the game-winning goal, but before that, Springfield head coach Keith Bugbee had a powerful message heading into OT.
“He (Bugbee) was saying it’s all or nothing right now,” senior Cole Pecora said. “For seniors, these four minutes are for your career.”
Pecora created a huge impact late in the second quarter. After MIT scored four unanswered goals, he found the net unassisted twice to close the gap a bit and head into halftime down 5-6.
“The pull was drawn to Cam (Glover) because he’s always a threat on offense,” Pecora said. “They’re always pressing out so it gave me a lot of space, so I kind of took my matchup one on one. I was able to beat the guy a lot and get my hands free. It’s really because we have so many threats along the field giving me space.”
Pecora would get a third unassisted goal once more in the third quarter, and the trend of unassisted goals remained heavy all game.
“We’re an offense that have definitely strived off of each other,” senior Lucas Habich said. “We have a lot of assisted goals normally, and this one we just had some individual efforts when we needed them to score.”
The Pride scored on offense when they really had to, although it was a grueling battle the entire game. MIT held the lead for the majority of regulation, and every time the the Pride scored, the Engineers seemed to have an answer.
Habich tied the game 12-12 after the Pride constructed an impressive fourth quarter rally. The Engineers tightened the noose around the Pride, however, with a goal to give them the lead yet again with just under a minute left.
It was time once again for Habich to step up. He scored a second game-tying goal with mere seconds left to force an overtime period.
“I had a feeling Glover was gonna see me cutting below,” Habich said. “My guy slid pretty early and Glover saw me when he needed to see me. He put me in a good spot to score, I would’ve hoped I could score that.”
A blocked shot at the Pride’s goal. With the twirl of his stick, senior Cole Finerty halted another shot on net and fell on the ball to recover it.
“It was definitely entertaining,” Finerty said. “It kept me on my toes. I definitely enjoyed seeing some of the shots that the D let up because I feel like those were the ones that helped us find our stride when we switched to zone.”
After the first half, it was time for the Pride to switch things up as they began to play more zone defense, although that wasn’t the sole adjustment Springfield made.
“Even at halftime, pretty much the whole game, just try hard to do the little things better,” Bugbee said. “We had some clearing errors, possessions were just so key. The effort was really good all day, we just had to tighten up on some things.”
Finerty had quite the night, and he’s been making the necessary saves all season when he’s been called on the most as he grew into his starting role.
“For three years I sat behind Jake (Reynolds) and I got to sit and absorb absolutely everything I could,” Finerty said. “He was an All-American goalie for a couple years and he basically showed me the ropes. Coming in this year, I was fortunate enough to have him come back and teach me everything as a starting goalie, and over this year, we’ve all learned as a unit.”
For such a young team that’s seen a large graduating class, it’s been a learning experience for the vast majority of the Pride.
“Down low we have two freshmen playing huge roles so it was a growing experience for everybody going through it,” Finerty said. “You gotta take a couple lumps in the season for it to pay off now. I think we just tried to mature and find our stride and that’s what we did today.”
MIT will certainly be a team to keep an eye on for years to come after two overtime wins for the Pride against a second-year head coach (Tyler O’Keef) that played under Bugbee.
“They’re really well-coached, they’re a really good team,” Bugbee said. “They’re gonna be a pain in my butt for a while.”
Springfield will now head to No. 1 Coast Guard on Saturday at 1pm for the NEWMAC Championship game.
“They’re good,” Bugbee said. “They’re athletic, they’re big, they’re strong. We gotta really strap it on and clean up a few things. We gotta turn it around, we got one day, just like them. It’s gonna be fun.”
Photo courtesy Sam Leventhal