MD3 Notebook: Nash, Springfield Outlast Naz
Springfield senior goalies Connor Nash and Rob Maher have been competing with each other since they arrived in Central Massachusetts four years ago, and their careers have crisscrossed during that span.
Their freshman year, Nash earned the starting nod and spent most of the time in the Pride net. The next year brought on the rise of Maher, who earned honorable mention All-American honors in the process. Last season was a mix of the two, with Maher getting the bulk of the minutes early, and Nash coming on late, starting in the Pride's NCAA game.
"This year, in our scrimmages and opening game we gave them each a half," said Springfield head coach Keith Bugbee while on the bus ride back from Nazareth on Saturday. "And this was Nash's turn to start and we gave it to him, but everyone understood if he got hot, he was staying."
Oh, he got hot.
Nash made eight saves in the first half while making several other critical clearing and possession plays to help Springfield build a 7-2 halftime over the 12th-ranked Golden Flyers. Bugbee was relatively sure he was going to roll with Nash in the second half, but he received confirmation during halftime.
"Maher came up to me and said, 'Coach, you've got to leave him in,'" Bugbee said. "That was a real team attitude."
The Pride would go on to post an 11-10 victory over Nazareth, helped by another 10 saves from Nash in the second half and some clutch scoring late. As one would expect from as talented an outfit as the Flyers, they came storming back, tying the game at nine with 3:59 left in the game on Luke Wooters' fourth of the game.
At that point, things looked grim for Springfield.
"Honestly, most of those games you do lose, especially on the road," Bugbee said about coughing up a big lead. "Momentum is hard to slow down sometimes. I ran out of timeouts. I called my last timeout with six minutes left when they were making their run, so I couldn't slow the train down. It would have been nice to slow it down one more time. You lose those a lot when they make a run like that."
Ryon Lynch, one of the 12 seniors on this year's team, answered the bell for the Pride. A minute after Wooters goal, he struck to push the lead back to 10-9. Then a little over a minute later, Kevin Freeman – another senior – ballooned the lead to two. Just 10 seconds after that, Drew Simoneau, who won 18-of-25 faceoffs for Naz, won the draw and scored, cutting the margin to one. The Flyers would get several chances in the final minute, but couldn's solve Nash.
"They were on man-up a lot and the faceoff guy got in a rhythm in the second half," said Bugbee of the Nazareth late-game onslaught. "They had the ball a lot. They are a good team and they were at home. It seems like I've been in a lot of one-goal games in my career, and sometimes you have to hang in down the stretch. I don't think we took our foot off the pedal as much as they just pressed. They shot the ball well and did some good things. It was definitely a case of hanging on for dear life at the end of the quarter, and really the last couple of minutes."
Things won't get easier for Springfield. They travel to Hoboken to face a Stevens squad coming off a loss at a facility Bugbee describes as "a funky little set-up."
The Pride will make the trip knowing they have a pair of senior goalies who will sacrifice anything to help the team win.
Lacrosse Magazine Player of the Week
Connor Nash, Sr., G – Springfield
The Pride headed on the road against one of the more talented teams in the country and thanks to Nash, they walked away with a stunning victory. Nash made a career-high 18 saves – including 10 in the second half – to allow Springfield to hang on for the 11-10 victory over then-No. 12 Nazareth. "That was the best game he's had wearing a Springfield uniform," said head coach Keith Bugbee.
Slides & Rides
- The finish to the Stevenson-RIT was epic, but it might just be the first of many meetings between the two schools under Syracuse's iconic dome.
"I personally think it's a great game for Division III lacrosse being in the dome and being a big event," said Stevenson head coach Paul Cantabene. "It was a great game. It showcased Division III lacrosse at its best: two teams battling back-and-forth with probably 10 to 15 All-Americans on the field at any one time. I appreciate Jake getting that done and I'm glad we played in it. We appreciate Syracuse University for everything they did."
"That was an awesome event," added RIT coach Jake Coon. "We were obviously thrilled. We didn't play well. It wasn't our best day and we were pretty fortunate to come out with a W, but the venue was fantastic. All the Syracuse guys were great. Mr. [Peter] Salah, the managing director of the Carrier Dome, was asking us if we wanted to make it an annual thing. I told him that I'd talk to Paul to see if he was willing to come up, or do it every other year. They were certainly willing to accommodate us if we wanted to do it."
- Midway through the second period it looked like No. 15 Denison was ready to tuck No. 13 Washington & Lee into bed with a 7-3 lead and a seemingly firm command of the game. Someone forget to tell the Generals, as they stormed back with five-straight goals bridging the end of the second and most of the third to take an 8-7 lead with 20 minutes to go. "We played steady, and they made some fine shots to end the first half and begin the second half," said Denison head coach Michael Caravana.
The Big Red leaned on goalie Chris Thomas to stem the tide, and the sophomore delivered, making six of his career high 15 saves in the second half, and allowing Denison to rally for an 11-9 victory.
"We needed Chris Thomas to help us out at that point to give us some defensive stops, which he did and that got us back on track," Caravana said. "Chris was really good most of the day and from there it continued to be a very hard fought and contested game. But we earned the win by showing the resiliency and mental resolve we needed to pull it out."
- The season is off to a fantastic start with upsets and epic games, but that is tempered by the knowledge that for the second time in as many years, a Division III program has gone dark during the course of the season. This time it was the University of Dallas, which, according to its web release, "didn't have enough student-athletes to field adequately sized roster." The announcement comes a year after Penn State-Abington had to close for business after not having enough guys on the roster, and it doesn't look like the Nittany Lions are coming back any time soon.
Why does this happen? I'm sure that there are numerous reasons, but the one likely culprit is a lack of resources to competitively operate in Division III. It's great that teams are making the decision to add lacrosse, but it's not as simple as raising your flag and waiting for the players to line up at the admissions office. A coach has to have the ability to compete with other schools for prospective student-athletes, and without the resources – facilities, equipment, budget – a start-up program is already behind the eight ball.
Sadly, I'm not sure if we're done with this phenomenon. There are two programs teetering on the brink right now and there could be more coming down the line if the appropriate steps aren't taken. Here's hoping the Crusaders can get back on track and bring lacrosse back to Big D.
- There was plenty to be excited about for Aurora as this season started, but the Spartans received a swift wake-up call in the opener against Albion. Aurora took an early lead, but was overtaken by the Britons in the second quarter and were forced to chase the game the rest of the way, eventually bowing, 11-9. The setback isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things. The Spartans don't have the schedule strength to get an at-large bid, so they'll have to make their money through the MLC tourney. And regardless of how well they do this year, they are almost certainly going to be on the road in the NCAA tourney, if they make it. But if this setback acts as a kick in the pants for Kylor Berkman's players and refocuses them, it might turn out to be a good loss. We'll find out against Adrian on Wednesday.
- Workmanlike efforts by Cortland and Salisbury over the weekend...Dickinson, helped by the Sudah brothers, downed St. Mary's, 13-8...they're under the radar right now, but Gettysburg put in a dominating defensive effort against Messiah, winning 12-1...as I predicted in the preseason, Lynchburg is going to be a grinder this year. It took them over 20 minutes to get their first goal against F&M, but the Hornets eventually chewed up the Dips for an 8-5 win...DePauw freshman Sam Caravana, the son of Denison head man Michael, led the Tigers with two goals and a dime in their loss to Rhodes.
- Congrats to Zach Nedbalski and Methodist for posting the program's first win in its first game. The Monarchs took down Southern Virginia, 23-3....also, congrats to Zach Iannucci and Illinois Wesleyan for also winning the first game in program history. The Titans downed Milwaukee Engineering, 13-3... Southwestern is off to the best start in program history (3-0) with a win on Friday over Millsaps...first-year squad John Carroll is now 2-0...Corey Elmer had four goals and three assists in Cabrini's rout of Haverford, 17-4. He had nine points last year against the Squirrels...RPI has to be kicking themselves. The Engineers were up 8-4 on Montclair State late in the third, but the Red Hawks scored the final five goals of the game.