By Evan Wheaton
Television sets were scattered on the senior green. Students were huddled in troves watching the men’s lacrosse team intently.
As senior Cameron Glover found the net in overtime, the Springfield College campus exploded with cheers.
The Pride defeated Ursinus College, nationally ranked as the eighth team in the country, 16-15 in OT to win the second round of the men’s lacrosse D-III tournament.
Before the celebration came a very grim first quarter. The Bears went on a run with six unanswered goals to start the match.
“Well, we knew that today was going to be tough and that we needed to play fast all day,” Springfield College men’s lacrosse assistant coach Ryon Lynch said. “They are a very talented team that does not make a lot of mistakes, so we knew we had to play clean.”
The Bears made quite a statement with faceoffs, going 7-10 in the first quarter.
“They had two guys who were really good,” junior Joseph Cameron said. “I started off clamping, but it didn’t work as well as I had hoped. I switched to my second move and I started winning a few. The key to today was to just make every ground ball as hard as possible for them. It’s really hard to beat someone who never gives up. Being down early in the game, we never gave up and neither did I.”
The Pride began to step up their faceoff game in the second quarter when they switched things up at midfield.
“Matt D’Andrea came in and took a few which was huge,” Cameron said. “He messed up their rhythm which gave me an opportunity to capitalize and keep them guessing on what we would do.”
With the increase of faceoff production, the offense began to wake up. Within the first minute of the second quarter, senior Jack Vail scored his first of three goals on the day.
“Once we started winning faceoffs and once we settled in on D, we knew we were going to be fine,” Lynch said. “It’s a game of runs, we just had to control what we could control and make our run at the right time.”
After Ursinus answered, Springfield tacked on three more goals as they began to construct a comeback.
“We really started to stop their momentum,” Lynch said. “We have a lot veteran guys on the offensive end, and we just felt that if we had the ball they were not going to stop us. We talk a lot about controlling what we can control and making the most out of every possession and that mind set was there all day today. The resilience of this group and the maturity of this group really showed, and our seniors made big plays when it mattered.”
Despite their efforts, the Pride were plagued with penalties throughout the game.
“When you play hard, you are going to commit a few penalties, and our guys were playing hard all day,” Lynch said. “We keep working on playing smart and under control, but throughout the course of the game, some of those fouls are going to happen.”
Despite the mounting penalties, the Bears only capitalized on half of them, going 3-6 on man up opportunities.
“I thought our D did a great job of buckling down and weathering the storm man down,” Lynch said. “We had guys make really big plays down on that end, but we love the tenacity our team showed today.”
The Pride wouldn’t take their first lead of the game until Glover scored with 3:43 left in the fourth quarter. Freshman Zachary Schuette found the net unassisted to take the lead before the Bears tied it with 1:17 left in regulation.
The same group that struggled in the first quarter is the same group that ignited the fire for the Pride’s offense.
“Our midfield,” senior Lucas Habich said. “We knew their D wasn’t going to slide and our midfield owned their matchups. Going into the fourth, we knew we can only score one goal at a time and (Cole) Pecora, Glover, and Schuette stepped up big time when we needed it.”
The field position battle for Springfield was a long, grueling one. It took time for the Pride to get into their rhythym, but once they did, the midfielders began to shine.
“It took us a little bit to adjust to their pace of play and their game plan, but once we settled in and played our game we were able to slow down their offense,” junior Kyle Murakami said. “Specifically, for the midfielders, it came down to making sure they couldn’t get to their strong hands. Coach (Brendan) Dooley did a great job preparing us prior to the game communicating to us which hands the midfielders were. Once the ball was on the ground we just all trusted our guys to get the ball up off the carpet.”
For the first time in three seasons, the Pride has advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament, and they did so with a very young team.
“This team is special, and giving up is not an option for us,” Cameron said. “I couldn’t be happier for coach (Keith) Bugbee, and I can’t wait to keep winning with this group!”
The Pride will face Cabrini Saturday afternoon.
Photo courtesy Gage Nutter