The 18th-ranked Middlebury men’s lacrosse team got its season off to a slow start on Saturday, March 1, as they lost to fifth-ranked Tufts 24-6 in front of a home crowd at Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium.
Coming into the game, one of the biggest question marks for the Panthers was the performance of the defense. After losing a pair of senior All-Americans from last year’s squad, Midwdlebury had a few fresh faces playing on the defensive end against Tufts.
Taylor Pirie ’15 netted Middlebury’s first goal of the game and of the season at the 12:56 mark of the first quarter. Thought Middlebury got on the scoreboard first, Tufts went on a streak of eight goals to gain a lead 8-1 at the beginning of the second quarter. Tim Giarrusso ’16 got one of his three goals at this point but was matched by another four-goal addition by Tufts extending their lead to 12-2. Giarrusso came up big again in the final seconds of the second quarter.
By halftime Tufts had fired 40 shots – including 23 in the second quarter alone – to Middlebury’s 17. Middlebury goalkeeper Nate Gaudio ’14 saved ten shots in the half, but it was all he could do to withstand the barrage of shots from the Jumbos.
At the beginning of the third quarter, Tufts built their lead as they netted four more goals to increase their already significant lead to 16-3. Jon Broome ’16 – the second leading scorer in the NESCAC a year ago – found the net with a lefty shot to put another on the board for Middlebury at 11:37 in the third quarter, but Tufts kept firing shots on the Middlebury goal at a high rate.
To close out the third quarter, Tufts scored seven more to increase their lead to 18. Down 23-5 at the start of the fourth quarter, Giarrusso was impressive as he collected his third goal of the game with 5:47 left on the clock to make it 23-6, before one final Tufts goal ended the game at a final score of 24-6.
The 18-goal loss was the worst suffered by Middlebury since the 1961 season, when Harvard beat Middlebury 23-3.
A bright spot for Middlebury was the play of senior faceoff man Brendan Gallagher ’14, who kept pace with his more experienced Tufts counterpart throughout the game. Gallagher was 10-21 on face-offs in the game, giving the Panthers a few scoring opportunities. It was ultimately not even close to enough, however, as the 77-33 final shot margin speaks to the total dominance that the Jumbos achieved on the day.
On Tuesday, March 4, the Panthers picked up their first win of the season, holding off Plattsburgh in a 9-7 win.
Middlebury scored the game’s first four goals, including a pair from Stephen Seymour ’14, before a trio of Cardinal goals cut the Middlebury lead to one, where it would stand going into the half.
In the second half, a quick goal from Plattsburgh tied up the score before Seymour’s third of the game put the Panthers up for good. After Plattsburgh cut the lead to one with 10 minutes remaining in the game, Broome put the win on ice for Middlebury with his second goal on a man-up opportunity for the final 9-7 score.
Middlebury was able to play a much more balanced game against Plattsburgh, slightly outshooting the Cardinals and winning an even half of the game’s face-offs. Gaudio had 10 saves in net for Middlebury.
The Panthers return to NESCAC play when they play host to Connecticut College on Saturday, March 8. The Panthers and Camels each finished 8-2 in conference play a year ago, and the winner of Saturday’s game will have an early leg-up in the race to keep pace with Tufts atop the conference.