In last weekend’s win over Bates at the Mustang Classic, midfielder Jake Bennett ’24 had one of the most eye-catching Amherst sports moments of the year so far. His behind-the-back goal against the Bobcats went viral, earning significant attention across various social media platforms, which put the Mammoths in the national spotlight. Amherst went on to defeat the Bobcats 22-10 in that matchup, placing them at 2-1 on the season up to that point.
As of Sunday, March 27, the video has over 61,000 views on the Inside Lacrosse Instagram page and over 100,000 views on all platforms combined. The play went down like this: after skillfully beating his defender behind the cage, captain PJ Clementi ’22 delivered a great pass to Bennett, who caught it about 20 yards from the goal, moving to the right, got a step on his defender, and fired a laser behind his back into the top-right corner. Bennett explained, “I was trying to get myself a free look because the defender was being physical and felt that type of shot was one of my better options, and I went for it.”
His Amherst teammates had nothing but praise for their teammate and expressed excitement to see their friend have a successful moment on the field. Bayard DeMallie ’23 described the goal as an “incredible finish,” and went on to explain his thoughts as that pivotal play unfolded. “He [Bennett] was getting physical with his defender, so I was expecting him to roll back to a shot, but he used his defender’s pressure to lean into a BTB [behind-the-back] from 12 yards and stung the corner.”
It wasn’t just his teammates who expressed excitement about his goal; the world took notice as well. Professional lacrosse players, including lacrosse legend Paul Rabil, commented on the video, expressing their praise for the shot. With his goal, Bennett gave the lacrosse world a remarkable moment, and showcased on a national stage the high level play of which Division III athletes are capable.
But on a smaller scale, this was an opportunity for the lacrosse team to show the Amherst community that all the hard work has paid off. The Mammoths had fall practices with first-year head coach Sean Woods, as allowed by the NCAA, for the first time in 2021, and they have been working to prove themselves despite having a completely new roster of players. Bennett brought a lot of excitement to the team with highlight-reel play, and it helped spur an undefeated weekend for the Mammoths down in Maryland. Looking forward, Bennett’s goal has made the team confident they can put another win streak together. Ethan Opdahl ’23 highlighted that the attention that the goal has received has only reinforced that they have the talent to put wins together, and they are confident they can have more success as the season progresses. Opdahl said, “We have the talent and have played tough with top teams, [so] we are excited for Tuesday [to show that].”
Though Bennet’s goal created some early-season energy after two years without competition, men’s lacrosse has had an up-and-down start to the first six games of their season, earning a middling 4-3 record and dropping from a No. 10 ranking to No. 14 in USA Lacrosse Magazine after the past week’s games. However, despite their uneven results, the Mammoths have shown great talent and promise so far in the early part of their season. They have had a difficult schedule, playing three ranked teams in their first seven games — NESCAC rival Tufts, St. John Fisher College, and Gettysburg College. Nevertheless, the Mammoths played two top-five teams closely, losing hard-fought contests to No. 3 Tufts 18-14 and No. 5 Fisher 14-13 in overtime this past Saturday. They also notched a huge win over No. 11-ranked Gettysburg 18-14, showcasing in the match a team capable of hanging with, or beating, the best teams in the country on a regular basis.
The goal briefly electrified the team, as they rolled through No. 10 Gettysburg, but the season again sputtered against Springfield College on Wednesday, March 23. The Mammoths dominated the first quarter 5-2, but they faltered across the middle two periods, and were down two heading into the fourth. The Mammoths rallied to take a 14-13 lead with less than three minutes remaining, but they let in a Springfield goal 30 seconds later, forcing overtime. The Pride scored after just 30 seconds — securing the golden-goal victory.
The Mammoths suffered the same brutal fate on Saturday, March 26, against No.5 St. John Fisher College. They pushed one of the nation’s top teams to the limit, leading by 2 at halftime, but they again stumbled in the first overtime period. The ship was righted on the night of Tuesday, March 29, against Western New England University — but just barely. The Mammoths struggled in the first half but turned up with a 5-1 third quarter to carry a three-goal lead into the final frame. Western New England made a last-ditch run but the Mammoths did enough to carry the game 11-10.
Amherst is back on the road on Saturday, April 2, at NESCAC foe Bowdoin for a 1 p.m. tilt, as they look for another win and more incredible plays against the Polar Bears.