After clinching the sixth seed in the NESCAC tournament last week when they were on the brink of elimination, the men’s lacrosse team kept the momentum rolling with an upset victory over NESCAC no. 3 seed and no. 11 nationally ranked Amherst last Saturday, April 22, in Amherst, Mass. The 12-11 win secured Middlebury a spot in the NESCAC semifinal round. The Panthers are set to start off the championship weekend on Saturday, May 6, when they square off with the country’s no. 1-ranked, undefeated Bates Bobcats.
While their upcoming matchup looks daunting, the Panthers played Bates closely in their meeting last month, as they played to a final score of 15-12 in Lewiston, ME. If goalie Chase Midgley ’19 has another performance two days from now like he did last Saturday, anything is possible for the Panthers, who are trying to add some late season magic to make it to the NCAA tournament despite being heavy underdogs. Midgley had a season and career best 24 saves against Amherst, securing the win with three saves in the final 36 seconds in just his seventh career start in the net.
For the Panthers, Danny Jacobs ’20 led the way against Amherst with a team high four goals. Two of his goals came within the game’s first 21 seconds. After the Mammoths scored three unanswered goals, Jacobs’ teammate, Matt O’Neal ‘19, added one of his own to tie the game at three all as the seconds ticked off on the first quarter.
Chase Goree ’20 added another goal for the Panthers before halftime to cut into Amherst’s lead, making it 5-4 Mammoths at the midway point of the contest.
After going down 7-4 early in the third quarter, the Panthers found that the offseason was biting at their heels. On the brink, the Panthers filled on the switch as they went on a hot streak to bring the score back to even after goals from Jacobs, Parker Lawlor ’18 and A.J. Kucinski ’20.
The 7-7 tie lasted into the fourth quarter before each team started trading goals to make it a thrilling down-to-the-wire finish.
Henry Riehl ’18 scored two straight goals for Middlebury before Amherst struck back to take a 10-9 lead. With just 8:24 left in the game and possibly the Panthers’ season, Riehl scored his third goal of the quarter to tie the score up at 10.
A few moments later, Jacobs continued his great day, coming through once again with another shot into the back of the net to give the Panthers their first lead of the day at 11-10.
Amherst didn’t go away easily though as the home team shot back, getting one by Midgley with 3:42 remaining in the game to tie the game back up at 11-11. Not to be deterred Jacobs finished off his incredible day with an accurate strike from 12 yards out to put the underdogs on top 12-11. Midgley’s effort in the net over the final minutes secured the win for the Panthers, as they celebrated with a jubilant spring towards the Middlebury sideline as time ran out.
The Panthers avenged a tough loss to Amherst earlier in the year where they fell by a score of 20-11, evidence they have come a long way and demonstrated resolve in the face of being bitten by a ferocious injury bug throughout the season. The season’s pivotal game in Lewiston will get underway Saturday at noon.
“As a group we are looking forward to the challenge ahead of playing Bates,” said Midgley. “We are confident and excited for the match up ahead of us.”