The men’s lacrosse team came out of the weekend unscathed and undefeated as they finished 2-0 in the Mustang Classic. The tournament, hosted by Stevenson University, has given Amherst some stiff competition since the team began competing in 2017.
This year was no exception, as the Mammoths took down 14th-ranked Franklin & Marshall College on Friday and second-ranked Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) on Saturday. As a result of the victories, Amherst moved to a perfect 5-0 record in the early stages of the season, but head coach Jon Thompson isn’t getting too excited yet. “We’ve got a lot of lacrosse left,” Thompson said in a post-game interview. “We’re about to go into the teeth of our conference season, and that’s no slouch itself.”
The weekend’s events began with the Mammoths overwhelming the No. 14 Franklin & Marshall Diplomats, winning 17-9. The Mammoths kicked off the game early, tallying back-to-back scores over a 40-second span to go up 2-0 less than two minutes into the contest. Franklin & Marshall would counter that with a three-goal run of their own to take their only lead of the afternoon.
Despite a late cross-checking penalty leaving Amherst down a man at the end of the quarter, Evan Wolf ’19 knotted the game at three off of a feed from Andrew Ford ’19. This wouldn’t be the first time Wolf showed up on the stat sheet that day; as he finished the contest with a stunning seven goals on 10 shots.
The Mammoths came out buzzing in the second quarter, opening up with an unassisted goal by Jimmy McAfee ’20 just 11 seconds in. The score would spark a 6-0 run in the second quarter, which included a hat trick by Wolf.
Despite the flurry of goals by Amherst through the first half, the defense played a major role in the team’s early lead. Franklin & Marshall out-shot Amherst at a rate of 49-39, but were stonewalled by Chad Simons ’20 in goal, who had a season-high 22 saves. The Mammoths’ stout defense forced 20 turnovers on the game, with 11 of those coming in the first half, and allowed Amherst to silence the Diplomats in their offensive end, holding them scoreless for more than 26 minutes.
By the time Franklin & Marshall’s Jarrett Donaghy put his team back on the board, Amherst had already extended its lead to 12-4. The Diplomats tried to make things interesting, reducing their deficit to 13-7, but it was as close as the Diplomats would come. Amherst responded to this surge with two pairs of goals to seal the game for the Mammoths. Amherst went on to win 17-9 and hand the Diplomats their second loss of the season.
While Amherst looked great in their Friday victory, they would have to perform even better for their contest on Saturday. No. 2 RIT came into the game with a 30-game regular-season win streak dating back to March 25, 2017. In that two-year stretch, the Tigers had notched two wins against Amherst, both of which came during the Mustang Classic.
This matchup was set to be the game of the weekend, a highly-anticipated battle between two potential national championship contenders.
RIT dominated the first 15 minutes. Amherst jumped out to its only lead of the first quarter after Wolf and Jon Coffey ’21 scored two goals in a nine-second span to make it 2-1. RIT quickly stifled the Mammoths’ momentum with a 5-0 run of its own, beginning with a man-up goal by the Tigers’ Shawn Nally. The Amherst defense didn’t have much of an answer for Nally early in the contest; the junior attackman notched three goals and three assists in the first two frames.
The second quarter proved to be much more competitive, as Amherst and RIT played a nearly dead-even game on the stat sheet. The two teams both had 10 ground balls apiece, and Amherst barely edged out RIT on both faceoffs and forced turnovers.
The Tigers extended their lead to 11-5 before the Mammoths slowly began their comeback. James Crovatto ’21 stopped RIT’s three-goal run with a goal of his own. Wolf followed, scoring his chance from an isolation dodge. A late Tiger goal with three seconds left on the clock put the score at 12-7 going into halftime.
After RIT’s dominant showing in the first quarter, Amherst countered with an equally dominant second half. The Mammoths’ success stemmed from Amherst’s ability to execute on rides, clears, slides, ground balls and other minutia which dictate the games.
Amherst’s young defensive core did a much better job, forcing the Tigers to lose possesion six times in the quarter. The Mammoths also dominated ground balls, outperforming RIT by a margin of 14-9.
All of these small victories led to Amherst outscoring the Tigers 7-2 in the third quarter. The Mammoths overcame their 12-7 halftime deficit, knotting the game at 14 going into the fourth quarter.
After trailing for more than 42 minutes, Amherst finally reclaimed the lead. Solberg then followed that goal up with one of his own, coming free inside on the crease and converting a great feed into a quick catch-and-shoot past the RIT keeper.
The Tigers would not be put away that easily; two goals on the crease would tie the game up at 16 with five minutes to play. Nearly a minute after the score was tied, Matt Solberg ’20 found Jack Norton ’19 wide open. Norton had all the time he needed to step into his shot, sneaking the ball in between the left pipe and the goalie’s foot to score what would be the game-winning goal.
Amherst would win the contest 17-16 and keep its perfect 5-0 record intact. RIT fell to 5-1 with its first regular-season loss in nearly two years.
Offensively, the Mammoths have been dominant early in the year, led by Wolf’s 21 goals through five games. Amherst is averaging 19.2 goals per game with assistant coach Quinn Moroney ’16 dictating the offense. The Mammoths have also seemed to find their man between the pipes during the Mustang Classic, as Simons notched two monumental victories behind 37 total saves this weekend.
The men’s lacrosse team will take the field again this Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., when they take on Endicott College on Pratt Field.