by Tom Utescher
The snow had disappeared from the artificial turf in the preceding days, but conditions couldn’t have been called comfortable for the men’s lacrosse game at Chestnut Hill College’s Victory Field last Sunday, with temperatures lingering in the 40’s and a strong, steady wind raking the Griffins’ home venue.
Still, CHC fans enjoyed themselves well enough for the first 20 minutes, as their squad took a 3-1 lead over the visiting Cardinals of Wheeling (W.Va.) Jesuit University. Tying the score twice and then scoring at the very end of the first half for a 5-4 advantage, the visitors deposited the only two goals of the third period and went on to win, 10-7.
They rode back out the Pennsylvania Turnpike with a 4-2 record, while Chestnut Hill slipped under the .500 mark overall, at 2-3. The Griffins remained 0-1 within the East Coast Conference, and needed to find a way to bounce back from this non-conference loss, since they’d be playing their next two games on the road against nationally-ranked ECC opponents.
In Sunday’s home field contest, it was frustrating for Chestnut Hill to maintain possession for several minutes on offense, then turn the ball over and see the Cardinals go down the field and score quickly.
“They got all their goals off of face-offs and transitions,” remarked fifth-year CHC head coach Brian Dougherty. “That was the scouting report on these guys; that’s the way that they play. We practiced against that, but sometimes their guys were just a little too slick and too skilled.
“I thought we did a great job defensively six-on-six,” continued the coach, referring to sequences when Wheeling had to work out of a set offense. “We actually did pretty well holding them to 10 goals, and the 10th one came right at the end of the game when it didn’t affect anything.”
The Cardinals had scored an average of 15 goals per game in their three previous outings this season. The visitors were first on the scoreboard last weekend, but four-and-a-half minutes in, sophomore Alec Dambach tied the match for Chestnut Hill. With 22 seconds left in the opening period Dambach’s classmate Justin Albarran moved the Griffins ahead off an assist from junior George Markey.
The home team also had the first word in the second quarter; with a little under five minutes gone, Dambach fed the ball to junior Michael Plaia for a marker that put the Griffins up by two points. On that scoring play, Wheeling Jesuit was penalized for unnecessary roughness, and the offender was sent to the box for a minute.
Dougherty observed later, “I thought a key moment was when we were leading 3-1 and we were man-up. We had a great chance to get up 4-1 and kind of pull away from them, but instead we turned the ball over.”
Over the next four minutes, senior Dustin Doudelet rallied the visitors with back-to-back goals. With 5:25 to go before halftime, Griffins senior Chris Mertens laid the egg in the Cardinals’ nest (assist: Dambach) to give the locals their last lead of the day, 4-3.
Wheeling went right down the field to tie it up, and scorer Dereck Downs, a freshman, struck again with 18 seconds remaining in the second round, sending the Cardinals into the halftime huddle with a 5-4 edge.
The scoring pace slowed in the third stanza, but CHC’s situation deteriorated as their rivals managed a pair of goals (by Downs and fellow freshman Sam Horning) and took a 7-4 lead into the final period.
The home side of the scoreboard finally clicked over from four to five about three-and-a-half minutes into the concluding quarter, thanks to an unassisted shot by Markey.
“We needed to score along with them more consistently,” Dougherty said. “That long stretch [almost 24 minutes] where we couldn’t put one in hurt us.”
In the middle of the period, Doudelet and freshman Matt Lee scored half-a-minute apart to lever the lead out to four goals, 9-5. CHC’s Markey fired his second of the day with five minutes to go, then several more minutes went by with the score stuck at 9-6.
With a little over a minute remaining, freshman Dylan Klusaritz notched the third goal of his CHC career to make it a two-goal game, but that only lasted for eight seconds. Wheeling won the next face-off and made one pass down the field to Lee, who completed the 10-7 final tally.
CHC sophomore Thomas McDermott and Wheeling Jesuit freshman Colin Smith each were credited with 12 saves in goal.
Asked what his charges would be working on in their next practice, Chestnut Hill’s Dougherty replied, “It’s all about winning the 50/50 ground balls. Whoever gets more of them traditionally wins a lacrosse game, because you’re giving yourself more possessions.”