LEWISTON, Maine -- After watching a 12-4 third quarter lead dwindle to one goal before the quarter had expired, the No. 4 nationally ranked Bates men's lacrosse team held off Middlebury for a 15-12 NESCAC victory on the team's senior day at Garcelon Field.
The Bobcats are 10-0 (7-0 NESCAC) for the first time in team history and have clinched fourth place or better in the final conference standings, which will translate into hosting a quarterfinal game in the NESCAC tournament.
Middlebury (4-7, 2-5 NESCAC), which dealt Bates two of its four losses last season en route to an NCAA Tournament bid, lost for the fourth time in five games.
Bates senior Kyle Weber (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) scored five goals with one assist and senior Charlie Fay (Falmouth, Maine) added three, while first-year Matt Chlastawa (Westfield, Mass.) added two goals and an assist. Senior Andrew Melvin (Medfield, Mass.) tallied a season-high five assists in the win.
Bates' outstanding defense was headed by senior Charlie Gravina (Fair Haven, N.J.), who caused four Middlebury turnovers and added two ground balls; sophomore Stephen Bull (Baltimore, Md.), who caused two turnovers and collected seven ground balls; and senior Fred Ulbrick (Fairfield, Conn.), who caused three turnovers and scooped six ground balls. Sophomore Mitchell Drake (Annapolis, Md.) made 14 saves in goal, and sophomore midfielder Jack O'Brien (Rye, N.Y.) had a team-high 10 ground balls while causing three turnovers in faceoff battles.
Danny Jacobs scored four times and assisted on one goal for the Panthers, while Parker Lawlor went for three goals and an assist. A.J. Kucinski passed out five assists and added a goal, while both Cedric Rhodes and Matthew O'Neal had a goal and an assist apiece. Kenan Yates caused a game-high five turnovers to go with six ground balls for Middlebury, while Charles Midgley made eight saves in goal.
Bates' quick-strike offense put the Bobcats on top first, scoring off of a Middlebury turnover for the game's opening goal, with Melvin feeding Fay at the 11:20 mark. Weber then made it 2-0 with 5:22 to go, jogging around the circle and firing from 20 yards out.
Middlebury got on the board with a fast-break goal of its own, as Kucinski finished off a quick series of passes by finding Rhodes open on the left post with 2:54 left in the first.
Bates responded with three straight goals, beginning when junior Clarke Jones (Pepper Pike, Ohio) found Chlastawa open with a long pass from behind the net, and the freshman able to step into a hard shot from the perimeter. With 26 seconds left in the period, Bates made it 4-1 three seconds after a Middlebury turnover, with Melvin assisting Weber. And at the 13:27 mark of the second period, senior Wes Shrewsbury (Boxford, Mass.) faked out his defender and fired in his fourth goal of the year for a 5-1 lead.
The Panthers stopped the run with 12:01 to go, with Kucinski hitting the cutting Jacobs to make it 5-2. But Bates answered with four unanswered goals scored within the ensuing 2:04 to build a 9-2 lead with 9:57 to go. Melvin fed sophomore Matt Kelleher (Newburyport, Mass.) on a fast break off of a Drake save at hte 11:24 mark, and 19 seconds later Fay scored on an underhanded shot threaded through the Middlebury defense from 10 yards in front. Weber scored on another rip from the outside at the 10:36 mark, with with 9:57 left the Bobcats scored on another fast break after Lawlor's shot hit the post and was corralled by senior Scott Baber (Pound Ridge, N.Y.), with Weber assisting Fay.
The sides settled with no scores for over five minutes, and Middlebury closed the gap by two goals with scores at the 4:41 and 3:27 marks of the half. Jacobs scored from in close but at a sharp angle, assisted by Rhodes, and Jacobs then assisted Lawlor on a quick strike after the Panthers blocked a Bates shot.
Bates returned the lead to seven goals before intermission, with Weber shooting on the run toward the baseline at 3:02 and Baber hitting trailing first-year Sean Clark (Mill Valley, Calif.) after a long clearing pass and Clark ripping his first career goal for the 11-4 lead.
Weber tallied his fifth goal in the opening minute of the second half, taking a cross pass from Chlastawa, putting on a one-on-one move nd firing 33 seconds in, giving Bates a seemingly comfortable 12-4 lead.
But the rest of the third quarter turned into a horror show for Bates and a party for the Middlebury faithful at the game, as the Panthers finished the period with seven unanswered goals, closing the gap to 12-11 with 16:34 minutes left in regulation. Middlebury won seven of the final eight faceoffs in the period and took advantage of 10 Bates turnovers committed in a 10-minute span. Lawlor tallied two goals and an assist in the run, Kucinski talied three assists and Jacobs scored twice, capped by a Henry Riehl-assisted goal with 1:34 left that made it 12-11. Bates' final turnover in the period led to a Lawlor shot in the final seconds, but Drake made the save to preserve the lead going into the fourth quarter.
Bates earned a little breathing room with the first score of the fourth quarter, as Melvin found Chlastawa open with a pass across the face of the goal with 13:18 to go. With both teams playing physically and having trouble maintaining possession, Bates got the ball as Drake saved a shot by Riehl, and with 8:56 to go Jones took a pass from Melvin and got off a shot in traffic to bump the lead to 14-11. With 8:16 remaining, the Bobcats went up by four with Chlastawa on the receiving end of a nice pass from senior Jake Walsh (Baltimore, Md.) and burying the ball into the upper right corner.
Bates' defense held Middlebury scoreless over a 13-minute span before Kucinski, left open near the left post, scored off of a Bates turnover with 4:02 remaining in the game on an assist from O'Neal. Both sides traded three turnovers apiece in the last four minutes, and Middlebury missed four final shots in the last minute of the game.
Middlebury outshot Bates 54-42 in the game, with a 26-23 difference in shots on goal.
Bates is off for 10 days before an April 18 showdown at No. 2 Tufts, the NESCAC's other undefeated team. Middlebury hosts Springfield in a non-conference game Wednesday at 5pm.
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