By Chris Gionta
When the Springfield College men’s lacrosse team won the overtime faceoff to give themselves the first possession of the sudden death period, they prepared to make it the final possession. Springfield head coach Keith Bugbee called a timeout and had his assistant coach Ryon Lynch orchestrate a game-winning play on Wednesday night.
“This was our third overtime this year, and the other two times, I did not call a timeout in overtime because I thought we might have had a play that looked like it was brewing a little bit,” said Bugbee. “And I told Ryon, ‘I don’t care if it’s 1-on-1 with the goalie, I’m going to call a timeout in overtime and let Ryon run a play and give these guys a chance to get a good look at the goal.’”
Once the whistle to restart play blew, the Pride began their attack. They moved the ball with patience while also giving each other space to make a play. The ball eventually found the pocket of the stick of Springfield’s leading goal scorer, Zac Schuette, who stormed through No. 11 Amherst’s defense and set himself up for a game-winner. From his left side, he ripped a shot that flew to the left of the Amherst goalie’s waist and into the net to win the game, 15-14, and send Stagg Field into jubilation.
“We were looking to dodge hard and get cutters to the net like we were doing all game,” said Schuette. “And fortunately enough, I was able to get my hands open and put it away, and celebrate at the end there.”
The nail-biting victory for the Pride did not seem very likely at the first quarter’s end, as Amherst put on the pressure early to take a 5-2 lead. With three wins and one loss heading into the game, along with an 11 attached to their name, the Mammoths were not a team the Pride wanted to play catch-up with.
Twenty-three seconds into the second quarter, Jarrett Nasengast avoided an Amherst defender’s stick by putting his own stick to his right, which was where he shot the ball. Despite taking a hit to the chest during his attempt, he found the back of the net with it to make it 5-3, Mammoths. Less than two minutes later, Joe Maimone scored a goal off an assist from Schuette. After Amherst scored a goal to extend their lead to two, the game had a scoring drought that went for over six minutes. Then, the Pride scored three unanswered goals in less than five minutes to take the lead. However, the Mammoths tied it with nine seconds remaining in the first half.
Amherst also scored a goal in the first minute of the second half, but they did not score again until the final minute of the third quarter. During their drought, Springfield rattled off four goals to take an 11-8 lead.
The Pride garnered this lead because of a phenomenal 27-minute stretch where Amherst only gathered two goals.
“We had a pretty good third quarter, I thought,” said Bugbee. “I think my goalie started seeing the ball a little better, too, after the first quarter.”
The Mammoths snuck in a goal with 26 seconds left in the third quarter to cut Springfield’s lead to two. Then, to start the fourth, the teams alternated goals to make it 12-10 in the Pride’s favor.
Amherst’s Brock Gonzalez took absolute control of the game as regulation’s end was nearing closer. He scored three consecutive unassisted goals in less than three minutes to give the Mammoths a 13-12 lead.
Yet, this did not falter the Pride’s quest for a victory. Thirty seconds after Gonzalez’s go-ahead goal, Springfield’s rapid response came in the form of an unassisted Chris Santa Barbara goal in which he cut through the defense and placed the ball past the goalie on his left side.
Amherst took back the lead with 2:34 left in regulation, but the Pride responded quickly once again. Tying the game was Mason Nocito, with Santa Barbara assisting that time. Both defenses stood stiff for the remainder of regulation, which allowed Schuette to deliver the heroics in sudden death overtime.
Schuette led the way in both the goal and assist column with five and three respectively.
“We’ve got so many dynamic players out there that are able to make plays,” said Schuette. “And, just fortunately enough, I was able to get open, and my teammates found me.”
Despite Amherst keeping him busy, Springfield goalkeeper Jack Hamilton also performed very well with 16 saves on the night.
The overtime victory lifted the Pride to 3-4 on the season. Their next matchup takes place on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Stagg Field against MIT.
Photo: Springfield College Athletics