Stellar early season sparks optimism for men's lacrosse

The Jeffs opened their season on Wednesday, March 12, against Bates College. The game was held on the turf of Springfield College to avoid the inevitable snow on the Amherst and Bates campuses. The early-season NESCAC contest posed a danger to the Jeffs, who hadn’t seen much action outdoors. The Jeffs proved up to the challenge, however, bombarding their counterparts from the north with 45 shots en route to an 18-3 season-opening victory.

The game started ominously for Amherst, as Bates found the back of the net in the opening minute to grab the early lead. Amherst struck back, taking a 2-1 lead before Bates knotted the game at two in the second quarter.

The Jeffs turned it on in the second quarter, scoring six straight to take an 8-2 lead into the half. They maintained the scoring in the third frame, notching another seven goals before tacking on an additional three in the closing session.

Amherst placed 13 different players in the scoring column. Tri-captain attackman Chris Condlin ’03 highlighted the barrage with five goals on ten shots, while midfielder Andrew Syfu ’05 registered one goal and three assists. Goaltender Cushing Donelan ’05 turned aside 12 Bates shots in 59 minutes, while first-year netminder Raul Altreche made two saves in one minute in his collegiate debut.

After the Bates game, it was on to sunny and stormy Florida for spring break. The Jeffs kicked off their Florida set on Sunday, March 16, against Clarkson University. Even though the game started on Sunday, it finished on Monday due to a lightning storm that suspended play at the half.

The Jeffs lost the game 6-4, dropping them temporarily to .500. Donelan made another 12 saves but this time allowed 6 goals. Tri-captain midfielder Matt Margolis ’03 scored a goal, his second of the season and also added an assist in the defeat. Midfielder Graham Lake ’05 and attackmen Craig McBeth ’04 and Alex Casertano ’05 rounded out the scoring for Amherst.

On Tuesday, Amherst got back into the swing of things with a 15-4 blowout win over Keene State College. Condlin once again starred offensively for Amherst, tallying another four goals in the rout. Casertano registered five points himself with a hat trick and two assists. Donelan made 12 saves in his third consecutive outing. With this win, Amherst improved to 2-1 on the season.

The Jeffs finished off their Florida road trip on Thursday, March 20, with a 15-9 conference win over the Trinity College Bantams. Margolis once again shined, notching five points on three goals and two assists. Donelan made nine saves between the pipes for Amherst. The victory over Trinity improved Amherst’s conference record to 2-0 and their overall mark to 3-1.

“The team set out with the intentions of coming back from Spring Break 4-0,” said attackman Mike Allison ’04. “Despite dropping the first game to Clarkson, we were able to stay focused the remainder of the week and beat two good teams.”

Even though the season is young, some promising trends have emerged after two weeks of play. The team has a potent yet balanced offense, with several players making contributions on offense.

“Our depth at each position gives us an advantage in every game we play,” said Allison. “With the number of offensive players that are able to score goals, opposing defenses have a difficult time matching up against us.”

In addition, Amherst has benefited from the instant contributions of its first-year players. The team’s defense has also played solidly, giving them a chance to win each game.

“Our success has been built around relentless team defense,” said McBeth. “Cushing provides terrific leadership in the goal,” he continued.

“I think our depth is a dominant strength of this year’s team,” said McBeth, “but you might also argue that our athleticism is more important. Regardless, it’s a Great Taste vs. Less Filling type of debate, and we know that works out pretty well.”

Of course, this year’s installment of the Jeffs is not without ample star power. Condlin and Margolis, two of the team’s three captains, lead the team offensively, and Casertano continues to rack up the assists setting the offense.

Now that the Jeffs are back in Amherst, they can set their sights on the rest of their NESCAC foes. Their next game, this Saturday is a conference affair at Colby College. Then Amherst will complete its season-opening six-game road trip with a non-conference game against Western New England College on Tuesday.

If Amherst can fare well against Colby and WNEC, it will bode well for their six-game homestand that kicks off Saturday, April 5, against Middlebury College. Five of those six games will be NESCAC contests. And after the string of home games, only one game will remain, an April 26 date with the Williams College Ephs.