Men’s lacrosse increases win streak with first conference win on Saturday

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Graduate attacker Austin Franklin scored three goals against Wheaton College

By Tyler Foy, Sports Editor

The men’s lacrosse team’s dominant second and third quarters at Wheaton College led to a 16-8 victory— the Lions’ first NEWMAC win of the 2022 season and second in team history.

The team opened its season with a 15-9 win over Nichols College on Feb. 19 and hasn’t looked back since, reaching a 9-1 record in non-conference play.

The Lions’ first and only road bump came in a 15-8 loss to Vassar College on March 5. Head Coach Matthew Colombini said the loss pointed out the flaws in the team’s system.

“A lot of the things that we struggled with are the things Vassar took advantage of,” Colombini said. “It was really kind of a humbling experience for everybody, and a good reminder of why all these little things are important.”

The Lions had just secured five straight wins and a commanding 21-2 finish against Regis College. Colombini acknowledged the team’s out-of-conference success, but he said their focus was set on making the NEWMAC playoffs and winning the championship. 

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“At the end of the day, if we don’t win a couple more NEWMAC games and make the playoffs, we’re not going to be satisfied,” Colombini said.

The Wheaton Lyons entered Saturday’s game 7-1 on the season, coming off a loss against Springfield College on March 19. 

With the stage set at Nordin Field, the Lyons and the Lions took their positions on the field to determine who would be king of the jungle.

Wheaton won the initial faceoff but was met with Emerson’s defense downfield. Senior goalie Malcolm McGrath was put to the test early as Wheaton fired off five shots within a minute—two of which were on target. McGrath saved the first one but Lyons senior attacker Lou Mainella slotted the ball into the back of the net, putting Wheaton up 1-0.

It wouldn’t take long for the Lions to return the favor following a Wheaton turnover on the next possession. Driving downfield, Emerson took two shots at goal with the second one from sophomore attacker Birk Swan finding an opening to equalize the match.

The Lions won the next faceoff and after another minute of play, took the lead with another goal from Swan. Over the course of the following three minutes, each team would have their attempts at goal, but Wheatoncapitalized to tie the game at two. 

Wheaton fired two shots at McGrath on the next drive. Due to an illegal body check from McGrath, the Lions were forced to play with a man down as the goalie had to sit out for one minute. 

Sophomore goalie Connor Nydegger substituted in against Wheaton’s free position shot which he saved to keep the match tied. Nothing would come of the penalty and by the time the players on the field were evened, junior attacker Nicholas Fulgione scored to put the Lions back on top, 3-2. 

The Lions continued to apply pressure and scored three shots later, this time from senior midfielder Skylar Celotto. Wheaton persisted, gaining another goal-scoring opportunity that McGrath snuffed out. With the possession back with the Lions, Celotto scored his second of the game making the score 5-2.

Prior to the end of the quarter, the Lyons regained possession of the ball with 30 seconds to play. Following a timeout, Wheaton shot four times with the last one finding the net in the final seconds of the first quarter.

The Lions were up 5-3 after the first 15 minutes of play, but the real difference-maker happened in the later stages of the game.

“Defensively in the first quarter, we were kind of feeling [Wheaton] out,” Colombini said. “Once you start scoring and the momentum goes your way in defense, you have a little more confidence because it’s really hard to play defense in a one or two-goal game.”

The second quarter’s tone shifted as Emerson’s Fulgione netted his second goal of the game a minute in. Celotto scored another two goals, and graduate attacker Austin Franklin netted another to push Emerson ahead 9-3. After the Lions’ four-goal run, Wheaton junior attacker Shane Ross made a goal of his own. 

The goal by Wheaton was just a speed bump for Emerson as they pushed forward after a penalty-heavy three minutes to score again– this time off a shot from Swan.

Emerson regained possession prior to the end of the half and, following a timeout, Celotto notched another tally, the Lions ended the first half with an 11-4 lead.

Emerson’s dominance didn’t stop in the first half as Celotto entered the second half and scored his sixth goal of the game. The Lions found themselves up a man after Wheaton was called for slashing, and Swan capitalized on the opportunity by netting his fourth. Franklin and first-year midfielder Alex Menendez tacked on two more in the third quarter, and Emerson’s defense kept Wheaton scoreless for the quarter.

The Lyons scored four goals in the first eight minutes of play to close the gap to 15-8. Franklin stopped Wheaton’s momentum shortly after netting his third goal, and when the dust settled, Emerson was up 16-8.

Celotto led the team in its first NEWMAC victory, scoring six goals. Swan and Franklin followed with four and three respectively. 

The Lions’ next set of games will be a three-game homestand starting with Clark University on April 2 at 2 p.m. Colombini said that, despite its 1-6 record, Clark can be dangerous.

“They’ve played three top-20 teams and are traditionally a really strong program,” he said. “The games haven’t gone their way yet, but they certainly have a ton of talent…They have some guys who certainly can play.”