LEWISTON —As it has been doing all season long, the Bates men’s lacrosse team kept things close against Connecticut College in the teams’ NESCAC quarterfinal.
And, as it has been doing all season long, the Bates men’s lacrosse team came out on top.
Senior captains Kyle Weber and Charlie Fay led the Bobcats with four goals each in the first half. Freshman Matt Chlastawa dished out a game-high four assists for Bates, which has made a habit of playing in, and winning, close games this season.
The same teams battled in a 16-14 Bates victory just one week ago, and the Camels were every bit as game this time around.
“We were getting good shots pretty much the whole game but I give them a lot of credit, they played very well,” Bates coach Peter Lasagna said in a news release. “It was as brutal of a 1-8 match-up you could possibly have.”
With the win Saturday, Bates earned the right to host the NESCAC semifinals and final on campus at Garcelon Field next weekend. The Bobcats will face No. 6 Middlebury at noon, while No. 2 Wesleyan will square off against No. 5 Tufts at 3 p.m. Bates has defeated each of the remaining teams in the conference tourney this season, but each by three goals or fewer.
“We’re excited to be at home on Garcelon Field (next weekend)”, Lasagna said. “We’re excited to have the NESCAC Championship run through Lewiston, Maine.”
Ranked No. 1 in the latest USILA coaches’ poll, Bates tried to jump out to an early lead, but Connecticut College had an answer for every Bates score.
The Camels (7-9) spread their offense around with seven different players scoring goals. Freshman Maxx Trotsky led the way with two goals. Jackson Kleintz and Ross Thompson tallied two assists each.
Bates denied the Camels on all four of their man-up opportunities while the Bobcats only converted one of their four man-up chances.
Freshman Rob Strain made 12 saves in his first career start in goal for Bates. Sophomore goalkeeper Jameson Hill made 18 saves for the Camels.
“Strain played well, I thought the defense around him also played well,” Lasagna said. “I thought he’d been seeing the ball really well for awhile. He’s a very good athlete and very good in the clearing game. The only way I could find out if he was ready to start in a NESCAC playoff game was to start him in a NESCAC playoff game.”
Fay put the Bobcats ahead for good with 13:29 left in the second quarter. Bates’ Charlie Gravina forced a turnover and the Bobcats got the ball to Fay who scored from straight on, rolling the ball under Hill’s legs on an assist from Burke Smith.
After another Camels turnover, Bates moved the ball around the perimeter until Jake Walsh connected with Weber who side-armed the ball in from 15 yards out to extend the lead to 5-3 with 12:11 to go in the half.
The Camels showed their resilience by responding right away thanks to a superb effort from Jordan Foster. The Nevada native ran around a couple Bates defenders before finding the back of the net on an off-balance close range shot, making the score 5-4 with 11:44 remaining.
After the Camels turned the ball over in their own end, Chlastawa delivered a no-look feed to Fay and the senior captain converted for his third goal of the first half. The Bobcats led 6-4 with 9:08 to go in the half.
Neither team scored for just under six minutes until Walsh found Weber and once again the Ohio native made his opportunity count, side-arming the ball in from distance for his fourth goal of the half. Weber’s score made the score 7-4 in favor of Bates with 3:13 left in the half.
The Camels got on the board first to start the third quarter when Kleintz scored his second goal of the afternoon on an assist from Kelleher. Then they struck again to cut the Bobcat lead to 8-6 when John Cunningham found the back of the net with 13:47 left in the quarter.
After missing on his first nine shots of the day, Chlastawa went top shelf for the score to put Bates up 9-6 with 11:16 to go in the third. It was the first goal of the day scored by the Bobcats by a player not named Fay or Weber.
The fourth quarter opened with Bates successfully recording the penalty kill. They got the ball back but a quick stick attempt by Chlastawa got denied.
With 7:21 left in regulation, Chlastawa tallied his fourth assist of the night when he passed from the far side of the goal to the near side, finding senior Andrew Melvin for Melvin’s first goal of the game.
The Camels responded with 5:25 to go as Trotsky scored off an assist from Thompson, trimming the Bates lead to 10-8.
But the Bobcats continued to keep the Camels at arm’s length, with Melvin passing from behind the goal to Walsh for the senior’s first goal of the day. The score pushed the Bobcat lead to 11-8 with 3:53 left.
Neither team scored from there on out as Bates earned its third victory in the NESCAC Championships in program history.