Men's lacrosse rebounds with big wins

The Lord Jeffs did not disappoint. Amherst walloped Bowdoin 11-2, humiliating the hosts in front of their home crowd and holding the Polar Bears to just two goals-the first time an opponent had done so since 1980. With the win, the Jeffs sent a powerful statement to the rest of the conference-and perhaps the nation at large-that the team has recovered from its midseason slump and is ready to enter the postseason firing on all cylinders.

The Jeffs jumped out to an early 2-1 lead in the first quarter only to step up the pressure even more. Amherst exploded for four strikes in the second frame to extend its halftime lead to five. The third quarter was no different, as the Jeffs added another pair of tallies. In the fourth quarter, the lead grew as great as 10-1 before Bowdoin struck back for one goal. The final score was 11-2.

A number of Jeffs contributed to the scoring outburst. First-year attacker Derek Cherney torched Bowdoin for three goals and co-captain attackman Mike Allison ’04 lit up the Bears for two goals and an assist. Junior midfielders Joaquin Walker and Graham Lake scored a pair of goals each. Attackman Alex Casertano ’05 and middie Sean Murray ’06 also enjoyed multiple point games.

Withering under the assault of the Jeff attack was Bowdoin goaltender Grant White. White had led his team to an exciting 11-10 victory over Middlebury the week before, earning himself NESCAC Player of the Week honors, but he could not stifle the Jeff attack on Saturday. White surrendered 11 goals and recorded 11 saves in the loss to Amherst. At the other end of the field, Amherst netminder Cushing Donelan ’05 sparkled. Donelan stopped 14 Polar Bear shots en route to the victory, his eighth of the season. Donelan’s efforts earned him Div. III National Player of the Week honors from Inside Lacrosse magazine. The victory also moved Amherst from 20th to 17th in the national rankings.

“The win against Bowdoin was the best lacrosse performance by us in the last four years without question,” said senior co-captain Alexei Kudla. “It has boosted our confidence in the fact that we have set the bar high for how we are capable of playing. Everyone was involved and into it, the energy was extremely high, the offense was clicking and the defense was punishing.  Hopefully that will continue in the next few weeks.”

Saturday’s thrashing of Bowdoin was not Amherst’s only contest of the week. Last night Amherst defeated Connecticut College, 14-9, proving that the Jeffs are truly back on track.

Now Amherst, 5-3 in conference, prepares for its final game of the regular season. This Saturday at 1:00 p.m., Amherst will host Williams College in the NESCAC regular-season finale. Though Williams is 2-5 in conference play, anything can happen when the rivalry comes into play.

“The home game against Williams is always huge, with tons of fans and excitement,” said Kudla. “If we play as hard and as well as we did Saturday, there are not many teams that can play with us.”

Then it’s on to the NESCAC playoffs, which kick off on Sunday afternoon. Seven teams make the postseason tournament: the first seed earns a first-round bye, while seeds two, three and four host playoff games on Sunday. The Jeffs are currently fourth in the conference, and while the conference’s top seed is out of reach for Amherst, a home playoff game is a very real possibility for a team that has at this point played just one game at Hitchcock Field all season.

“The positive attitude that the coaches and team has had over the last week is contagious and our good play couldn’t come at a better time: A, before Williams and B, before the playoffs,” concluded Kudla.