Williams vs. Wesleyan
April 17, 2010
The Game Story:
WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS. - Williams men’s lacrosse found its stride on Saturday against Wesleyan behind an exceptional performance from senior netminder Stephen Vrla, claiming a 6-5 overtime victory on a goal from sophomore Michael Acierno with 7.7 seconds to play to break a three-game losing streak. The team moved to 4-3 in the NESCAC and 6-5 on the season, while Wesleyan dropped to 6-6 on the season and 2-5 in the NESCAC with the loss.

“We’ve had a rough streak of games, and this was a great way to end the losing streak,” said Vrla. “Last week the seniors got together, and we were saying that it our last couple of weeks of lacrosse in our lives. We said that we were going to leave it all on the field and not hold anything back, but as coach says, words are cheap and actions are what count. Everyone stepped up at some point today great all around team win.”

Vrla was absolutely central to the victory: he stopped 19 of the Cardinals’ 24 shots on goal. “It’s one of those things where some days you’ve got them and some days you don’t,” he said. “It’s a great feeling on the days you do.”

Williams got on the board first when Acierno caught the ball behind the net and sliced through two Cardinal defenders on the left side before ripping a shot into the top right corner of the net 4:08 into the game. The Ephs then scored on a man-up opportunity after Acierno was slashed in the helmet by Wesleyan’s Gabe Kelley with 7:41 to play in the period; with six seconds remaining on the penalty, senior Brian Wrapp found sophomore Tim Goggins at the top of the crease, and Goggins flung the ball past Simmons to make the score 2-0. The quarter ended with the Ephs in possession after another Cardinal penalty and still up 2-0.

The Ephs were unable to take advantage of the man-up opportunity, and Wesleyan finally able to find a way past Vrla 3:54 into the second. Vrla made an incredible kick save off a Cardinal shot, but Conor Malangone was able to pick up the rebound for the Cardinals in the middle of the field and hit the back of the net before Vrla recovered. Neither team was able to score for almost ten minutes, as Vrla and Simmons kept their opposition off the board until sophomore Sam Hargrove received the ball behind the goal on the left with 2:21 to play. Hargrove then wrapped around the crease, cutting by a Cardinal defender before shoveling an underhand shot into the bottom right of the goal to make the score 3-1 with 2:19 to play in the half – a score that held into the break following a string of consecutive turnovers in the final minute.

Although the Ephs outshot the Cardinals 25-17 in the first 30 minutes, Vrla’s play was the story of the half. The Cardinals found the goal frame on 12 of their 17 shots – the majority coming from point blank range – and Vrla stopped 11, including a string of double saves. In contrast, Simmons could only stop 3 of Williams’ 6 shots on net.

The Ephs added to their lead only six seconds into the half, as Jacobs won the opening faceoff of the half before cutting into the top right of the Cardinal box, winding up and letting fly an overhand shot that found its way into the bottom left of Simmons’ net. Wesleyan pulled a goal back with 10:18 to play in the period, when Malangone found Graham Gnall open in the top left of Williams’ defensive third and Gnall was able to find space in the bottom left of Vrla’s net to make the score 4-2. The Cardinals found the goal a little more than nine minutes later, when DJ Bernatavitz cut from behind the net on the right of Williams’ goal and found Malangone diving toward the Eph net with 1:07 to play in the third; Malangone received the pass before slinging the ball past a chanceless Vrla to make the score 4-3 heading into the fourth quarter.

The momentum seemed to be heading in the Cardinals’ favor as the final quarter began; Jacobs won the faceoff for the Ephs, but Williams then turned the ball over and gave the Cardinals a fast break opportunity. Malangone then received the ball at the left of the Eph net and took the ball toward the crease – but Vrla again came up huge, stopping the Cardinal attacker within inches of the goal. Malangone then went into the crease after the save, and Ephs went the other way. Following the Malangone turnover, Hargrove mirrored his first-half goal, this time curling around the net from the right side and hurling the ball overhand past Simmons to make the score 5-3 with 13:14 to play in the game. Wesleyan wouldn’t roll over, however, as Gnall managed to pull one back for the Cardinals with 6:23 to play after cutting from the back left of the Eph net. Bernatavitz then tied up the game 5-5 with 2:08 to go in the half, receiving the ball on the right of the Williams goal and dodging through two Eph defenders before slinging the ball into the bottom left of the Williams net. Jacobs won the following faceoff, but the Eph illegally brought the ball out of their offensive third with 1:11 to play to create a suspenseful final minute of the fourth – but Vrla stopped the lone Cardinal shot, and the teams went into overtime.

Weselyan controlled the overtime, and the Ephs didn’t have a shot in the overtime until the final seconds of the game. Reuter won the ground ball off a Cardinal shot with 35 seconds to play; the Ephs successfully cleared the ball and passed it around before finding Hargrove behind the goal with 15 seconds remaining. Hargrove curled around the left of the Cardinal net looking for a shot, but when no opportunity presented itself, he passed to Acierno, who wound up and put the ball through Simmons’ five-hole for the game winner.

The team will now prepare to play SUNY-Plattsburgh at 5 p.m. on the road on Tuesday.