Courtesy of Justin Schmalholz
The Emerson men’s lacrosse team started its 2022 season with a 15-9 win against Nichols College this Saturday, Feb. 19.
The game marks the Lions’ first home game in almost two years. Rotch Field hadn’t seen an Emerson game since Feb. 2020. The team only played two away games last year, though head coach Matt Colombini said the home game was a much-needed change of pace from the long road trips to away games.
“It was nice just to be able to command the locker room and not have to get on a bus,” Colombini said. “You know where everything is and that everything was set up and what the routine was.”
Colombini said “managing the energy” of the team’s first home game in over two years was something the team talked about for many athletes, this was the first time since 2020 that their parents could watch them play. For some, it was the first time in their college career.
The first 10 minutes was a tight game that largely favored Emerson with graduate attacker Austin Franklin scoring 3 of the 6 goals for Emerson with assists from junior and sophomore attackers Nicholas Fulgione and Birk Swan, who also recorded goals for the Lions. The early 2-0 lead established by Swan and Franklin wasn’t broken by Nichols until 6:33 left in the quarter, which ended 6-3 Lions.
The Bisons kept pace with the Lions in the second quarter, both teams netting four goals. The gap between the teams narrowed to one after Nichols scored the first two goals. Swan pushed the lead up to two with another tally 11 minutes in, though the Bisons kept pace with another goal less than a minute later. Three more Emerson goals and two from Nichols put the game at 10-7 Lions going into the second half.
The third frame was an aggressive push for Emerson— Franklin, Fulgione, and junior midfielder Jack O’Rourke tallied three goals, increasing the team’s lead to 13-7. Bisons’ sophomore Colby Gillis finally put Nichols on the board for the third quarter two minutes in, though a goal from first-year midfielder Skyler Celotto cemented Emerson’s lead in the third frame. The game moved into the final 15 minutes (up/down) 14-8.
The majority of the final quarter was a scoring desert for both teams, with Nichols’ offense falling short on account of junior goalie Malcolm McGrath, who blocked five shots in the quarter, two less than 30 seconds apart. Nichols was deep into the fourth with three minutes remaining when they tallied a man-up goal. The final goal of the day was scored by Emerson’s first-year attacker Hunter Gervais with 2:17 left in the game. In the final two minutes, Nichols won a faceoff and took the final shot, which was blocked by McGrath. The game ended 15-9, with the Lions victorious.
Franklin led the Lions’ scoring four goals while O’Rourke was close behind with three. Swan and Fulgione brought two goals and two assists each. Leading the defense was McGrath, with only nine goals allowed on 24 shots with 15 saves in the game. Senior defensemen Lex Torrington kept the offense fed with four turnovers.
Colombini said every Lion on the field, both new and old, stood out.
“Austin’s gone through it a lot before, Skyler’s done it before, Malcolm has started a ton of games for us and played really well,” he said. “He expected them to play great. I thought Lex Torrington did an excellent job on [Nichols’] number one offensive player, playing defense for us. Jack O’Rourke hasn’t had a ton of experience because of COVID. And he played a great game. And Nick [Fulgione], playing attack and midfield force.”
Colombini emphasized that, despite the lack of experience due to COVID, many of the less experienced players performed well.
“Those guys [Torrington, Fulgione, O’Rourke] don’t have a ton of real game reps under their belts yet,” he said. “I think combined, they had over 10 points, the three.”
Before Emerson’s next game against Wentworth Institute of Technology, which he believed would be a challenging opponent, Colombini wanted to work on the team’s consistency.
“I thought we hit a little bit of a low,” Colombini said. “We stayed the course and made sure that even when things are going well, we still focused on what we’re doing so we can stay nice and sharp.”
The Lions proved they could stay sharp, defeating Wentworth 13-10 this Wednesday and bumping their season record to 2-0.
Emerson will play again Saturday, Feb. 26 against Saint Joseph’s College of Maine at Rotch Field.