Castleton went into the fourth quarter with a 10-7 lead but could not hold on as New England College outscored the Spartans 6-1 in the quarter to win the North Atlantic Conference Championship, 13-11 at Spartan Stadium on Friday night.
"I give NEC a ton of credit for riding the wave of momentum," Castleton Head Coach Bo McDougall said. "We had some opportunities in the third to separate ourselves from them on the scoreboard, but they withstood our rush, and used their own opportunities to turn the tide of the momentum."
Zach Davidson put in three goals and added an assist, while Alex Denny recorded two goals, and seniors Will Stuhler and Alex Green each scored two goals adding one and two assists respectively in the loss.
In the first quarter NEC started scoring with Cam Scully, ripping a shot top-shelf putting them up 1-0. Castleton answered two and a half minutes later with Stuhler finding the back of the net for the Spartans, tying the game up at 1-1. Zach Davidson added a goal in the first as well but NEC put in three and were up 4-2 at the end of the first quarter.
The Spartans had the answer in the second quarter with Davidson and Denny each scoring a goal a minute apart halfway through the quarter tying the game 4-4. Louis Alhage put one in for the Spartans with three minutes left in the quarter to take the lead. The Pilgrims found the back of the net with a minute left to tie up the game again but six seconds later Green answered the attack with a goal of his own to reclaim the lead going into halftime up 6-5.
Davidson, Stuhler, Green and Sean Paradis each netted a goal in the third and went into the fourth up 10-7
In the fourth the Pilgrims started to surge and was within one before Denny ripped a goal to go up 11-9. It wasn't enough though and NEC kept scoring and tied it up at 11 with four minutes left. Skyler Saunders scored the go-ahead goal with three minutes left then sealed the victory for NEC with a minute left winning 13-11.
"Definitely a tough loss, our seniors didn't deserve that outcome," Davidson said. "We are a young team though and we will be back next year with an even bigger chip on our shoulder."
Peter Latulippe recorded 17 saves but took the loss in net for the Spartans.
"This squad played as hard and as together as any team I've been a part of," McDougall said. "Many in the lacrosse community tabbed this year as rebuilding year, during the preseason. This group of guys, led by our great senior class, refused to settle for a rebuild."
Davidson filled the stat line this season recording 106 points with 57 goals and 49 assists. He also became the first Spartan ever to record 300 points in a career and is only a junior.
"It's pretty cool to reach that milestone but I don't really care for stats as much as winning," Davidson said. "Alex Green has been my right hand man and we play really well off of each other I am going to miss him come next season."
He was awarded the NAC player of the year for the second year in a row and will be back for his senior campaign looking for a NAC Championship.
"Zach is a special player. Sometimes, what gets lost in his stats is how great of a teammate he is," McDougall said. "His unselfishness is reflected in his stat line, as he's just as happy to assist on a goal as he is to score one himself. He makes everyone around him better."
The Spartans end their season with a 12-6 record while the Pilgrims improve to 14-3 and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament.
"We are very very excited about what's to come. We'll return both the conference player of the year and defensive player of the year," McDougall said. "We've also seen great development in this deeply talented freshmen class. If they continue to stick together and work as hard as they have; they could take this program to new heights."