Men's lacrosse off to hot start with two wins in Florida

Despite the loss to Nazareth, the Jeffs now take a winning record and the confidence that comes with it into the NESCAC opener this Saturday.

The new season officially kicked off last Tuesday, March 16, when the Lord Jeffs took on the Lords of Kenyon College in Orlando, Fla. Amherst attackmen bombarded the Kenyon net early on, scoring six goals in the first quarter and getting into double digits before the end of the first half. Junior goaltender Cushing Donelan made the lead stand up in the second half, turning aside 18 shots en route to his first victory of the season. The Jeffs took the season opener by a 13-4 tally.

Head Coach Tom Carmean had to be pleased with his team’s first performance of the year. A number of Amherst players figured into the scoring, including a pair of first-years. Attacker Derek Cherney ’07 notched a hat trick and added an assist for a four-point collegiate debut, and attackman Chris Hofmann ’07 scored a goal in his first game as well.

Veteran mainstays also got into the scoring act, led by attackman Andrew Syfu ’05 who had five points on two goals and a trio of assists. Fellow junior attackman Alex Casertano registered three points in the win, and midfielder Joaquin Walker ’05 had a goal and an assist.

The following day’s schedule brought Amherst to Clermont, Fla., to do battle with Keene State College. The Owls from New Hampshire took the early advantage in this one, leading the Jeffs 2-1 in the first period. But Amherst responded with a flurry of seven goals in the second period, and went on to earn its second victory of the young season. The final score was 13-7.

Donelan split time in the cage with backup goaltender Raul Altreche ’06. The duo combined to turn aside 10 of the 17 shots fired on net. Casertano led all scorers with four points, while Syfu tallied three points on three assists. Cherney continued his fast start with another two scoring strikes. Attackman Bryan Hiller ’05 and midfielder Sean Murray ’06 also enjoyed multiple-point games.

The final game of trip was back in Orlando on March 19. This contest pitted the Lord Jeffs against the Nazareth College Golden Flyers, ranked fifth in the nation. The Golden Flyers jumped on the Jeffs in the first half, taking a 4-2 lead into the break. Amherst answered with four goals in the third quarter, and tied the game in the fourth with a goal from the stick of midfielder Andrew Wilcox ’06.

Nazareth pulled away, however, with another four strikes in the final frame to secure the hard-fought 11-9 win.

There were a number of individual highlights to the loss. Donelan was busy all day, making 17 saves while suffering his first loss of the season. Walker continued his fine start to the season with five points on the strength of a hat trick and two assists, and co-captain attackman Mike Allison ’04 netted two goals and helped set up a third in the defeat.

“In Florida we discovered we have the talent and ability to play with and beat any team in the country,” said Allison. “Our defense is communicating well and playing like a cohesive unit. What we must focus on now is capitalizing on opportunities within games.”

Now the Lord Jeffs (2-1) return to the Northeast and turn their thoughts to conference play.

Amherst will ride the bus to Hartford, Conn., this weekend to take on Trinity College. The opening face-off on Saturday is at 1:00 p.m.

Trinity has won all three of its games thus far in the young season, scoring almost twice as many goals as it has allowed. The Trinity Bantams boast first-year attacker Curtis Kahn, a rookie who was named NESCAC co-Player of the Week for his four-goal debut against Bates College last week.

“We open our NESCAC slate this weekend against a Trinity team that should never be underestimated,” said Allison. “If we play the way we did in Florida, it seems Saturday will be the beginning of a very successful spring for Amherst lacrosse.”