Middlebury visited Wesleyan in Middletown, CT on Saturday in NCAA D3 men’s lacrosse, and the hometown team won 7-3 over the Panthers. Middlebury entered the game ranked 17th in NCAA D3 lacrosse, while Wesleyan sat just outside the Top 20. This has turned into a huge rivalry game in the NESCAC over the years as Wesleyan dominated the first third of all games played, Middlebury ran off 16 straight wins through 2005 during the second third of the two teams’ history, and lately the results have been quite even, with Wesleyan holding a slight edge over the last 12 games (7-5).
All Wesleyan photos courtesy Mitch Lieberman, the full gallery is at the bottom of the post.
The game was played on Terry Jackson Field, aka the Birdcage, and it is the natural grass surface where I played all of my home games at Wesleyan, before the school got turf. The Birdcage is surrounded on two sides by concrete art buildings, and leaves only one side for the fans. The atmosphere is always electric, and is one of the loudest, and best, places to play a NESCAC lacrosse game. Ask SwankLax, he’ll agree.
Wesleyan used the grass surface to their advantage early, and went on a 5-1 run to open the game. At least two of the goals were assisted by the grass, either because of a defender slipping, or because of a weird bounce shot, but all that matters is that goals came for Wesleyan early. The first six minutes of the game truly decided the outcome and Wesleyan going hard to the cage right away seemed to surprise an aggressive Middlebury D. Midd adjusted a couple minutes in to the game, but they had clearly dug themselves into a hole.
Both Middlebury and Wesleyan are stronger on defense than on offense, and the early 4 goal cushion was just too much for Midd to overcome. The Panthers got as close as 5-3, before Wesleyan added two goals towards the end to really cap the game off. Wesleyan’s defense was coordinated, and Middlebury struggled to draw the double and move the ball quickly to the backside when they were on offense. Midd’s poles really stepped up after the early lapse and caused turnovers and pushed the ball upfield well, but the goals never truly came in bunches.
Overall, the play could be considered a little sloppy, but that’s just what happens when two really good defensive teams match up in rivalry game. If you were paying attention, you also noticed that Middlbury has “their guys” and they play certain players much more than others. Wesleyan seemed to platoon their guys a little bit more, and it definitely seems like they had better depth all over the field. For anyone who knows the rivalry, this is somewhat of a switch in fortunes. Midd has always had depth in the midfield, and now they seem to lack it. Interesting to say the least.
Even though 6 of the 10 goals were scored in the first half of the first quarter, the games was still exciting. Both teams’ long poles and short sticks wreaked havoc, causing turnovers, and pushing transition. Just when I thought the scoring would pick back up, either Covington (Wesleyan’s goalie – 17 huge saves) or Gaudio (Midd keeper – 11 solid saves) was up to the task. The poles and goalies for both teams were really the stars of the game.
Want a full recap of the game? Thank goodness I was tweeting. If you look at all my tweets from yesterday, you’ll see a full recap of the game. Have to love technology!
Also, how cool are Wesleyan’s AWAY uniforms? The all red with white padding is pretty outstanding.