The 2000 Division III National Champions took a spring break trip down to Chestertown, Maryland to face the 1998 Division III National Champions and came away with a 17-16 victory in overtime. Middlebury's close defense struggled all game but freshman goalie Eric Krieger made some big saves which bought the offense time to put points on the board. Washington College was chasing Middlebury all game and could never build a big lead. Washington Head Coach J.P. Clarke said, "This was a battle between two real good lacrosse teams. This is as good a game as you will see in DIII all year."
Washington was dominant on face-offs early in the game winning 10 of 11 in the first half. They played those opening face-off victories into a 3-0 lead. First it was Eric Kuehn who caught a feed from Nick Nylund and cranked one lefty from 8 yards out. Nylund assisted on the next goal as well when he hit Craig Rentch who scored despite being heavily guarded by Caleb Holmes. Nylund then scored himself as he took Middlebury defenseman John West straight to the cage. The WAC was doing a nice job frustrating Middlebury offensively. They were playing a pole on senior midfielder Jamie Haire and shutting off junior midfielder Matt Dunn leaving Bryan Sanchez to make the plays. The first play for the Panthers was made by Holt Hopkins who swept his stick under the goalies to steal the ball and put it in the net. Hopkins then had the next goal when he bounced a shot off the goalie and it fell in. Washington scored again with under a minute to play when Topher Brewer converted a pass from Brad Hopkins. Krieger made two huge saves after that goal that seemed to build his confidence and give Middlebury some momentum going into the second quarter.
David Seely got his first of the game as he drove through a pair of sticks to make the score 3-4. Dunn then evened up the score with a righty crank as his defender fell over trying to push him away from the goal. Grayson Fertig scored to give Middlebury the lead when he took it to cage again driving through sticks. The Shoremen were having a hard time playing the body. They then made the decision to switch to zone. Coach Clarke said that they knew they were going to have to play some zone. "We wanted to make their offense think but we are a better man-to-man team." The switch did keep Middlebury off the scoreboard for the rest of the quarter but not the rest of the game. Washington scored with ten seconds left in the half on inside roll by Rentch. That tied the game at 5.
The third quarter started off a bit rusty for both teams as they each threw the ball away on the first few possessions. Eventually it was Middlebury that struck first with Seeley taking his defender from behind the cage. The WAC did answer with Kuehn converting a feed from Dan Meehan. Middlebury came back with a big run when they scored three goals in a minute to open up a 9-6 lead. First it was Haire who took it lefty and stuck it. Then it was Dunn showing his outside shooting finishing a feed from Seeley against the zone. Middlebury won the next face due to an illegal procedure call against the WAC when one of the wings left early. The Panthers took advantage of the free possession when Greg Carroll dodged from X. The Shoremen did score next on an extra-man opportunity. Nylund again took Astrada and dunked it. Middlebury scored the final two of the quarter with Herbert quick-sticking a shot in front and Dunn driving through sticks and bouncing a shot low.
Now for the action packer fourth quarter in which 14 goals were scored. There was no face to start because Washington had possessed the ball and they were man-up. They converted that man-up opportunity with Jon Fellows scoring from up top as they moved the ball around. Middlebury answered ten seconds later as Greg Bastis scored off the face. Washington had five unanswered to turn this into a game. Nylund added to his total as once again he had his way with Astrada. The coaching staff finally made a switch. Coach Quinn explained, "Sometimes it just isn't a good match-up. Astrada is a good defender. We just wanted to give someone else a try." Justin Berger caught a rebound and put it back to bring the WAC within two. Just like he did at the end of the first half, Rentch rolled his defender for a goal. Washington had another man-up opportunity and by moving the ball across the top they found the open man, in this case Berger who put it in. Washington took the lead with 10 minutes to play as Brewer scored as Middlebury was out of position with their slides. Middlebury came right back with a lead they would never lose. It was Herbert who scored on a dip and dunk that made Washington goalie John Chrismer dance. Holt Hopkins was credited with the next goal but it probably should have gone to John Thomas from Washington who tried to dive on the ball and save it but instead knocked it in. Dunn had the next goal as he showed tremendous patience with his defender, rocked him to sleep then blew by for the goal. The WAC came back as Rentch scored his 4th of the game as he took a short stick. Washington had a great opportunity next tie it up on man-up but instead Kuehn caught pipe. Middlebury looking to hold the ball put it in Dunn's stick who did a great job drawing a cross-check call. Middlebury converted the EMO with Hopkins rifling one high to make the score 16-14. Middlebury again tries to hold the ball but Washington makes a steal and draws two penalties with 41 seconds to play. Being two men-up Fellows fed Kuehn as he was cutting in front of the crease to bring them within one. All even now, Washington wins the face and calls time-out. The coach put the ball in Rentch's stick and he steps up big-time. He drove right, spun inside and finished high left to tie the game with 18 seconds in regulation. Washington wins the next face and gets a shot off but it sails wide. The Shoremen backed up the shot and again Rentch picks up the ball with 9 seconds left but is unable to do anything. We are moving to overtime.
Middlebury wins a huge face-off and calls time out. Haire picks up the ball, passes across the top to Dunn. Dunn begins to rock his man who had a short stick. Coach Clarke explained after the game that Dunn should have been covered by a pole. Dunn starts to make a move but instead feeds Herbert who was peaking on the crease; Herbert catches the ball and finishes high for the win.
This was the first regular season match-up between these two storied programs. Middlebury Coach Quinn explained that this game came about when Middlebury had to make some changes to their schedule due to the conference tournament at the end of the year. "We looked at the top teams in the country and tried to figure who we could schedule. Washington was one of our first calls." Considering that Washington College is 3-4 one might think that Coach Clarke would regret scheduling such a tough road so early, "Absolutely not. This game ends our exhibition season. Now the real stuff [league games] begin. We have just been through seven wars. Now our freshman and sophomores are battle-tested. We are a better team then when we started as a result." Washington can make the tournament with an automatic qualifier if they win their league.
Washington College vs. Middlebury