By KEVIN BOILARD
Junior attackman Billy Kelly scored four goals in the University of Mary Washington men’s lacrosse season opener against Hampden-Sydney College (HSC) on Saturday, Feb. 16, but the Eagles eventually lost, 9-8, on an HSC goal with 1.6 seconds remaining.
UMW scored first, as junior attackman Luke Dick was able to find the back of the net twice in the first quarter. HSC was quick to respond, though, burying the Eagles with precise shooting, building a 3-2 Tiger lead headed into the second frame.
Kelly had the first of his four tallies, an unassisted strike during a man advantage, in the second quarter. HSC overshadowed Kelly’s goal with three of their own, which resulted in a healthy, 6-3 lead for the Tigers at halftime. Three of HSC’s six first-half goals were on man-up plays.
The momentum shifted in the second half, as Kelly dominated the third frame of the contest.
“Most definitely,” Kelly said when asked if Saturday’s season opener was the largest role he’s played at UMW. “I started, so that was definitely a big deal for me.”
Sophomore midfielder Chris Garcia only needed 1:03 to find Kelly for a quick goal in transition. One minute later, Kelly scored again, cutting the Tigers’ lead to only one goal.
“Billy [Kelly] stepped up huge,” head coach Kurt Glaeser said. “That’s a great sign for us. He pretty much showed that he’s ready to be a starter, consistently.”
HSC stopped the bleeding with 8:51 left in the third quarter on an unassisted goal, but the Tigers still had no answer for the Garcia-Kelly connection. A few minutes later, the speedy midfielder found Kelly once again for his fourth and final goal of the game.
“I’d never had a four-goal game before at UMW,” Kelly said. “I think the most I had last year was only two.”
Garcia provided a goal of his own in the final minute of play, as the Eagles and Tigers traded tallies with the seconds dwindling in the third quarter. Heading into the fourth frame, HSC clung closely to a narrow 8-7 lead.
“Obviously, speed kills. And he’s fast,” Glaeser said about Garcia. “He made all the right plays.”
Both teams featured staunch defensive play in the contest’s final quarter of play. Junior goalkeeper Zach Del Grosso, who handled a respectable eight saves on the day, guided his young and inexperienced defense well with the game on the line. Saturday was Del Grosso’s first collegiate start.
Senior Paul Tunick, a usually hot shooter who was squelched for most of the day by HSC’s stingy defense, gave the Eagles the break they were looking for at the 7:29 mark. In a man advantage situation, Tunick grabbed hold of a skip pass from Dick and rifled a shot toward the net. Tunick’s goal tied the game at eight goals apiece.
The interstate rivals exchanged opportunities to put the game away late in the game’s final minutes, but Tigers attackman Ryan Martin eventually delivered the battle’s final dagger. With 1.6 seconds left on the clock, Martin squeaked a shot past Del Grosso, making the final score 9-8.
Disappointed by the loss, Kelly found little consolation in his statistically career-best performance.
“It felt good, but I’d much rather have the win, though,” Kelly said.
Glaeser was still able to pull a few positives from his team’s disappointing loss to start the season.
“I thought we created plenty of chances,” Glaeser said. “We took more shots than Hampden-Sydney did. We got some great looks off a couple set plays. There are a few things we still have to get better at.”
UMW bounced back on Wednesday, Feb. 20, with an 18-13 win over Randolph-Macon. Junior attackman John Bohlinger led the charge with five goals and two assists.
The Eagles will host McDaniel College on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 1 p.m.