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Friday, Dec 1, 2023

Men’s lacrosse falls short in NESCAC championship, but qualifies for NCAA Tournament

Jake Peluso ’24 celebrates scoring a goal.
Jake Peluso ’24 celebrates scoring a goal.

This weekend, the Middlebury men’s lacrosse team (16–2) looked to cap off a highly successful regular season with a NESCAC title. After a thrilling overtime win over Hamilton (14-13) last weekend in the opening round, the Panthers looked to continue their playoff success on Bello Field in Medford, Mass., against Williams.

On Saturday, Middlebury defeated Williams (10–7) by a score of 13–7 to advance to the NESCAC finals. William Ryan ’23, Cooper DeMallie ’26 and Jake Peluso ’24, who had three goals, two goals and one assist, and one goal and two assists, respectively, paced Middlebury’s offensive efforts. Nate Ruoss ’25 and Luke Simpson ’23.5 each had two caused turnovers, leading a defensive effort that held Williams scoreless for the entire second half.

The following day, in the NESCAC finals, the Panthers squared off with Tufts (18–0), who is ranked first in the nation according to Nike/USA Lacrosse. Prior to this matchup, Middlebury’s only loss of the season had come against Tufts at the beginning of April, falling 19–15 in a game where they began to trail majorly early on.

Sunday’s outing followed a similar pattern. Tufts started the game with a run of 10 unanswered goals through the first 20 minutes of play and had built up a 16–1 lead by the halfway mark of the third quarter. The Panthers clawed their way back, but their efforts were too little and too late, as the game ended with a score of 19–6.

Russell Thorndike ’25 and Billy Curtis ’25 each had two points on the afternoon, while Patrick Jamin ’25, Tyler Forbes ’23, William Ryan ’23, Logan White ’26 and Jack Sheehan ’23 each chipped in a goal.

As the season winds down, Garrett Hawthorne ’25 said the group hopes to savor and prioritize the team unity that they’ve developed throughout the year.

“As a team we are really focusing on staying in the present and making every second count, not taking for granted the extra time we have to spend together,” Hawthorne said.

Regardless of Sunday’s loss, Middlebury’s impressive 2023 campaign earned them an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Panthers will travel to Schenectady, N.Y., this Saturday to play the winner of St. Mary’s (Md.) (14–5) vs. Merchant Marine (10–6). If they prevail in that match up, they will face the winner of Union (N.Y.) (11–6) vs. Western New England (12–8) on Sunday.