Amherst Hoping to Snap Midd Skid
from press release
AMHERST, Mass. – At one point in the classic 1989 movie Major League, Cleveland Indians broadcaster Harry Doyle reminds his listeners about an upcoming "Die-hard Night," which would feature free admission to anyone who was alive the last time the Indians won a pennant.
That's kind of what it feels like for the Amherst College men's lacrosse program, which will host Middlebury College this Wednesday with hopes of upsetting the Panthers for the first time since Major League debuted in theaters.
Since Amherst's 8-6 win in 1989, 18 groups of seniors have graduated without ever having defeated Middlebury. The Panthers have won 25 straight in the rivalry, nearly doubling the Jeffs' goal output (344-175) along the way. The Jeffs have come close several times (they jumped out to an 8-2 lead in last year's NESCAC quarterfinals), but Middlebury has always found a way to come out on top.
Despite Amherst's fantastic start to the 2011 season, the Panthers are once again the favorites. The three-time national champions (and seven-time NESCAC champions) are 5-1 as winners of three straight, with their lone loss coming at the hands of Wesleyan in overtime. They are coming off a 2010 season that featured appearances in the NESCAC finals and NCAA quarterfinals, with each tournament ending in a narrow loss to eventual champion Tufts.
Wednesday will mark the first meeting in which both teams are ranked nationally since No. 7 Middlebury edged No. 13 Amherst by a 13-12 margin in 2005. At that time the Jeffs and Panthers knew a thing or two about classic battles. After an 8-6 final score in 2003, the next three regular-season meetings were decided by only one goal, including a 7-6 overtime result in 2006.
This week's meeting could have that same feel of the mid-2000's. Amherst jumped to No. 12 in today's USILA Division III Coaches Poll and Middlebury stayed put at No. 7. The Jeffs rank second in the NESCAC in scoring offense (12.5 gpg) but will be up against the top-ranked defense (6.49 GAA), while Middlebury's second-ranked man-up unit (.400) will battle the conference's best penalty kill team (.815).
Which team brings its 'A' game on face-offs could be the difference maker, as the Jeffs and Panthers rank ninth (.467) and 10th (.377) in the NESCAC, respectively. Wednesday will feature a terrific goalie showdown between Amherst's Sam Jakimo '12 and Middlebury's Ryan Deane '11, who boast the conference's second (.621) and third (.618) highest save percentages.
Jakimo and Deane will have their hands full as three of the conference's top four goal scorers will be present on Wednesday. Middlebury's David Hild '11 ranks second in the NESCAC with 3.17 goals per game, while Amherst's Cole Cherney '12 and Devin Acton '14 are close behind in third (2.88 gpg) and fourth (2.75 gpg). In his past three games against the Jeffs, Hild has totaled nine goals and one assist.
Whatever the outcome, Amherst and Middlebury will leave Gooding Field knowing that there is a good chance of a rematch. They have met in the conference tournament five times since 2001, with the Panthers ending the Jeffs' season in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010.
With both teams boasting a 3-1 mark in the NESCAC, Wednesday's winner will stay within striking distance of Tufts (4-0) and Trinity (4-0), while the loser can drop no lower than a tie for fourth. Game time is set for 4:30 p.m. and admission is free to everyone.