The Colgate men’s lacrosse team took the next step in its fantastic season by guaranteeing itself a spot in next week’s Patriot League Tournament with Saturday’s 12-5 victory over Lafayette, which also put the team one win away from claiming the top seed and home-field advantage in the tournament. The win also increased the Raiders’ winning streak to five games and pushed their record to 10-2 overall and 4-1 in the Patriot League.
The game against the Leopards was a tale of two halves. The first half was a low scoring, tightly played match that saw each team score three goals. Colgate opened the game with two goals in the first five minutes, one by senior Robert Trasolini and the other by first-year Brandon Corp. Lafayette responded with a tally of its own, but one minute later junior Brendan Hurley notched his 12th goal of the season to reestablish the two-goal lead. Heading into the second quarter, the Raiders had the 3-1 advantage, yet they could not muster any offensive power in the period and went into halftime tied at three.
“We struggled at times during the first half of the Lafayette game because we stopped working together,” assistant coach Mike Borsz said. “Our first three goals came easily due to the teamwork behind each tally but we started playing selfishly towards the end of the first half and we are lucky, due to the excellent work of our face-off unit, that the game did not get away from us even further.” With the game tied at halftime, the Raiders unleashed one of the scoring streaks that has become a distinct part of almost every game. Junior Jeff Hiller drew first blood with a goal a mere 20 seconds into play, and from there the offensive floodgates opened. Colgate scored six more times in the quarter, and, just 10 minutes into the third period, the Raiders had gone from a tie game to a seven-goal advantage. The barrage was led by sophomore Matt Lalli’s three tallies and two assists, while Corp, Hurley and senior Brian Robinson each touched the back of the net. Hurley and junior Rob Ryan also added two assists.
Lafayette scored in the last minute of the third period, but the Colgate offense could not be stopped, as the Raiders added two more goals to finalize the score at 12-5. Lalli and Hurley each scored a career-high six points in the contest, and Robinson remained the team leader in goals by scoring his 20th and 21st goals of the season.
“After the halftime break, the guys started playing within themselves once again and were able to capitalize on [Lafayette’s] mistakes,” Borsz said about the turnaround.
With the win behind them, the Raiders continued to disprove the preseason predictions, which had Colgate missing the postseason tournament. Instead, the team clinched a berth in the Patriot League Tournament in their penultimate game of the year. In the process, the Raiders also regained their national ranking, achieving ranks of 20th in both the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll and the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Coaches’ Poll.
Not only are the Raiders in the Patriot League Tournament, but they are also in a very good position to claim home-field advantage and host the playoffs. The team only needs to beat Bucknell, a team that is currently in fifth place in the league and out of the postseason picture. A win would tie Colgate with Navy atop the league, with Colgate holding the tiebreaker after a 6-3 win earlier in the season. Home-turf advantage for the Raiders could prove to be important, since the team’s record stands at a gaudy 7-0 in contests at Tyler’s Field and only 3-2 in outside Hamilton.
“We are excited to be back in the Patriot League Tournament,” Borsz said. “The pre-season Patriot League rankings had us finishing fifth in the league and now we have a strong chance of winning and hosting the tournament with a win this weekend. We are excited to be a part of the tournament but realize that it is just one step towards reaching our goal of being Patriot League Champs and earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Hosting the tournament on Tyler’s Field is a big motivation for our guys this weekend. We have played our best lacrosse at home and would love to have a good home field crowd out to support us.”
The team is not taking the Bison lightly, however. Bucknell possesses an unimpressive 5-6 overall record, but it upset Maryland, a previously top-ranked team in the nation, earlier in the year. The Bison were also picked to finish third in the Patriot League and were in the Inside Lacrosse preseason Top 25.
Borsz reports that Bucknell is one of the best teams at riding, or keeping opponents’ defense from clearing the ball out of their zone, and that that skill is what makes them a tough team.
“Bucknell is a great team,” he said. “They have had some disappointing losses this year, but only by a couple of goals. They pride themselves on being an aggressive riding team and have been one of the more successful riding teams in the country this year. I believe they have played their best games of the year when the ride has been successful, so we are preparing everyday for this part of the game and we will be ready and expect to handle their pressure well.”
The final game of the regular season takes place tomorrow at 1 p.m. in Lewisburg. The Raiders must take care of business on the road in order to keep their postseason at home.