By SAMSON BELAY
The men’s lacrosse team soared to 1-0 on the season as the Eagles took down Virginia Wesleyan 8-7 last Saturday, Feb. 12, at the Battleground. In a nail-biter that went down to the wire, the story of the contest for UMW was defense.
“Our defense as a whole played the best today by stopping the opposing offense several times and clearing the ball in chaotic situations,” head coach Kurt Glaeser said.
The Eagles struck first blood when senior Mark Bowler scored the opening goal of the game off a pass from Harry Snyder. But after that first goal, the UMW offense sputtered for the remainder of the first quarter and into the second, falling behind the Marlins 3-1. However, veteran leadership of the upperclassman players helped the Eagles overcome the early offensive lull.
“I thought we would have first game jitters but slowly settle into the game to show the younger players how to compose themselves,” Bowler said. Bowler’s first goal got things going for the Eagles offense, and he later added another goal to give him two total for the contest.
Senior Andrew Kohler, junior Matt Vazquez and junior Will Devlin provided an intimidating physical presence on the defensive side of the field, as the Eagles held the Marlins to seven goals for the game. Senior goalie Ryan Kleman earned the win by contributing a whopping 15 saves.
“Too many guys are trying to be the star by excelling individually instead of doing what’s best for the team,” Glaeser said. “They just need to slow it down and play within themselves and the game plan.” Glaeser went on to explain that execution of specific plays was what worked very well and that in fact those were where most of the UMW goals came from.
The stagnant offensive attack pulled it together after three misses in a row when freshman midfielder Chip Pittard scored. This sparked an offensive onslaught for UMW the rest of the way.
With 1:28 left in the half, coach Glaeser took a timeout in order to set up the offense. This decision paid high dividends as senior Kohl Meyer scored the lead-changing goal to make it 4-3 with 46 seconds before intermission.
Sophomore midfielder Josh Furnary added onto Meyer’s goal when he electrified the crowd by scoring another goal in the last second of the half.
“It gave us a great boost, because we were shooting many shots but not many of them were falling,” Bowler said. “Once we got the lead, we had the momentum and wanted to keep it by executing the game plan.”
Both teams showed they were focused starting the second half by each scoring a goal within the first three minutes. As the game neared the start of the fourth period, penalties started to mount up for the Marlins, as they committed all three of their infractions in the second half.
The Eagles could not take advantage of the sloppy play by Virginia Wesleyan until sophomore Sean Dacey scored with 6:56 left in the game, pushing the UMW lead to a much more comfortable two-goal advantage. The Marlins responded with a goal of their own just a minute later. Virginia Wesleyan kept the offense on high assault, as they bombarded the Eagles defense with shots.
A Marlins score with 3:41 to play appeared to tie the game up at 7-7, but after the referees huddled together they determined that the player was in the crease and the goal was thus disallowed.
Snyder scored a goal for the home Eagles with 2:51 remaining, and Virginia Wesleyan could only tally one more goal, giving UMW the 8-7 win.
The men’s lacrosse team will have another home game on Saturday, Feb. 19, as Hampden-Sydney College comes to Fredericksburg to take on the Eagles.