The Middlebury men’s lacrosse team entered the past weekend as the seventh seed in the NESCAC Tournament. After closing the regular season at 7-8, the Panthers were still confident they could make some damage in postseason play. Heading to second seed Wesleyan University on April 27, Middlebury showed just exactly what they are capable of. In a huge upset and the biggest win of the season, the Panthers won 11-7.
Tyler Forbes ’22 showed up to play once again, opening up the scoring at the 13:48 mark of the first. After winning the next faceoff, the Panthers regained possession and senior Luke Peterson netted a goal of his own in the next 40 seconds. Defense remained quite strong throughout the entire game. Wesleyan was able to get two back on the board in the first, but after junior Chase Goree’s goal, the game was 3-2 in Middlebury’s favor.
Wesleyan opened up scoring in the second quarter, but Middlebury’s offense was able to rebound quite quickly. Fans were quite impressed with the constant attack by the Panthers, who scored the next four goals of the half and took a demanding 7-3 lead into the second half. A.J. Kucinski ’20 added two of his own, while Forbes and Will Brossman ’21 netted one each on rifling shots.
In the second half, the Panthers proved just how good they were in the net and on the defense. It wasn’t until more than halfway through the third quarter when Wesleyan scored their first and last goal of the quarter. Middlebury followed with two goals of their own, again by Forbes and Kucinski. The Panthers could start to taste the victory but remained strong to close out the game on the attack. They did not let Wesleyan, fifth in the country, gain momentum. Wesleyan scored at the 11:19 mark, but Middlebury answered minutes later. Trading goals was simply not enough for Wesleyan to come back. After the Cardinals closed within three goals with four minutes to go, Goree put the icing on the cake with a great goal at the 2:26 mark.
The Panthers proved just how well-rounded they can be when their season is on the line. Sophomore Jack Hoelzer, who has played a decent amount throughout the season for the Panthers, praised how solid their team depth is. “We had a bunch of young guys stepping up to the plate and older guys leading us on Saturday. We played a really solid game and put together a solid 4 quarters,” Hoelzer stated.
A.J. Kucinski led the scoring with four goals and two assists, Forbes followed with three of his own. The man in goal earned a lot of praise this past weekend. “Tyler Bass [’21] played an amazing goal in net and with the help of the defense only let in seven goals 24 shots against the defending nationals champs,” Hoelzer said.
The Panthers will continue their postseason run as they head to tournament-host Tufts on Saturday to take on the Jumbos at 12:00 p.m.