The Castleton men’s lacrosse team proved they deserved the top seed in the North Atlantic Conference when they beat New England College 17-5 in the championship game on Saturday night.
The team was glad they hosted and gained home field advantage, which paid off seeing as how there was quite a large and engaged crowd.
“It was electric out there under the lights,” said head coach Bo McDougall. “A lot of the momentum we were able to generate during the 8-goal run we went on in the second half, was fueled by the energy our fans were putting out. It was just awesome!”
Spartan senior Ryan Cave earned the tournament’s MVP honors after a stellar defensive performance. He held the nation’s third leading scorer, Brian Gillis to only one goal, while the entire Castleton defense held the conference’s highest scoring offense to just five goals.
“We played solid team D against their guys for four quarters,” Cave said. “Having Petey in the goal making big saves boosted my confidence guarding Gillis big time.”
The Castleton offense also had a big night as sophomore Zach Davidson earned his hundredth career goal on his third goal of the game. He also dished out four assists as senior Sam Bailey recorded four goals and two assists.
The first quarter went back and forth between the visiting Pilgrims and the Spartans. NEC’s Adam Shute scored his first goal five minutes into the game. Four minutes later, Castleton found its way to the board as Davidson assisted Bailey’s first of four goals. NEC tacked on another goal with 1:38 to play in the first, but Davidson tied it up with only 41 seconds remaining.
Junior Alex Green found senior Spencer Hunt in the second quarter to put the Spartans up 3-2. The Spartans had a man advantage and capitalized on it as senior Nohea King scored to make it 4-2. Gillis scored his only goal of the night to bring his team within one, but the Spartans answered again as senior Phil Patterson found the net with only 15 seconds remaining in the half.
“We talked about our overall team depth, and that we needed to come out in the third quarter and impose our will on them,” McDougall said. “They only played 15 different guys in the first half, compared to our 20 or so. We knew that if we picked up the pace of play and really pushed transition we could make them tired and get the separation we needed to end the game.”
In the second half, Castleton did just that. The team really found its rhythm as they scored twelve goals to NEC’s two.
Green started off the second half scoring, followed by another Davidson goal and back-to-back goals from Bailey. Senior Kenny Bourneuf also scored for the Spartans and Bailey notched his final goal of the game. With 23 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Shute scored his second goal to make the score 12-4.
In the fourth quarter, Bourneuf scored again, but NEC answered to make it a 13-5 game. However, the Spartans had the final say and scored four more goals to end the game 17-5.
The Spartans didn’t just dominate in scoring; they also picked up 42 ground balls as NEC only grabbed 25. Sophomore Ben Roberts won 15 of the 26 face offs to help his team win possession and freshman goalie Peter Latulippe made seven saves. He and Davidson joined Cave on the All-Tournament team.
“The win really helped bring everything we’ve worked for this year together,” McDougall said. “From the senior lead 6 AM workouts all fall, to the early morning shape gym practices in February, to the hard work the guys have put in all spring on the turf; winning the NAC championship, and doing so in such convincing fashion, showed the guys that it all paid off.”
The Spartans improve to 15-3 on the season and will advance to the division III NCAA tournament.