Top-Ranked RIT Fends Off Union's Upset Bid
by Will Cleveland | LaxMagazine.com
In-Game Blog Replay
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – For only the second time in 14 games this season, the Rochester Institute of Technology men's lacrosse team found itself in an unfamiliar position.
RIT was held scoreless in a quarter, with the first coming during the fourth quarter of an 18-8 win over Clarkson.
This one was different, however. Coming off a scoreless third quarter, the top-ranked Tigers were clinging to a one-goal lead in a key Liberty League matchup with No. 6 Union.
The Tigers responded with three goals – two from senior Taylor Wisman and another from junior Eddie Kiesa – helping them escape with an 8-7 win over the Dutchmen on Thursday at RIT's turf field in suburban Rochester.
"Basically we said that our veterans need to play like veterans down the stretch," fifth-year RIT coach Jake Coon said as his team improved to 14-0 and 4-0 in the Liberty League. "This time of year, if we don't have great leadership, if we don't have veteran play from those guys, it's not going to come out in our favor. Taylor Wisman in particular stepped his game up and had a great fourth period for us. (Face-off specialist) Tyler Brooks-Lambert and (goalie) Pat Johnston both played very well today.
"Offensively we struggled a little bit. Part of the reason is because their defense is so good, but I don't think we played our best. It's a combination of the two. Give them some credit as well."
Wisman, RIT's fifth-leading scorer, and Kiesa, the sixth-leading scorer, each finished with a season-high three goals to power the Tigers.
"We've got a lot of depth, a lot of people scoring," said Kiesa, who was an honorable mention All-American last season as an attackman with 77 points before moving to the midfield this season. "That's what we're most proud of: everybody on the team gets a lot of burn, gets a lot of goals, a lot of assists. We spread it around. Today was my day and I was pumped about it. Tomorrow it might be somebody else's day."
Brooks-Lambert, a senior, helped RIT dominate possession by winning 11 of 19 faceoffs while Johnston, a junior, recorded 15 saves. Sophomore long-stick midfielder Matt Hossack set a physical tone with a season-high seven ground balls and two caused turnovers.
RIT held a 42-22 edge in ground balls and a 40-37 advantage in shots.
Trailing 5-2 at halftime, the Dutchmen (10-2, 3-1 LL) played an outstanding third quarter to pull within 5-4. Tom Stanton and Nolan Stauffer each scored, while the Union defense packed it in, limiting the high-powered Tigers to outside or odd-angle shots.
Union, which had won 10 straight after a season-opening loss to Cortland, snapped RIT's stretch of 20 consecutive games with 10 or more goals.
"Because of their inside two-man game, we really tried to force them to shoot from the outside," Union coach Paul Wehrum said. "We did pack it in a little bit. We were switching on their picks a little bit more than we had done in the past. I think it helped. It came down to goalie play and our goalie, thank God, Stefan Basile, he kept us in the game. He's a great one."
Basile, a junior, stopped 16 of 24 shots. Stanton, a sophomore midfielder, came off the bench to score a season-high three goals.
The Dutchmen trailed 8-5 in the waning minutes. Stanton netted his third with 1:05 left to move Union within 8-6. RIT won the ensuing faceoff and turned the ball over. After a one minute cross-checking penalty to RIT's JD Hall with 14 seconds left, Union got to within 8-7 on Paul Alberti's goal with six seconds remaining. The Dutchmen never got an opportunity for the tying shot.
"It's a good win for us," Hossack said. "From here on out, it's pretty much playoff ball. Everything is a must win, especially in league play. We're probably going to see these guys again. They are a great team, so this is a great win for us."
Wehrum, who won eight NJCAA national titles as the coach at Herkimer County Community College, said his team learned a valuable lesson from this game.
"I know we can play with them now, but more importantly, the kids know they can play with them," Wehrum said. "That's a great team. We are looking forward, because hopefully we'll have a chance to come back and see them again."
RIT hosts Liberty League rival Skidmore at 5 p.m. on Saturday, while Union heads to Vassar for a 1 p.m. Liberty League matchup on Saturday. Whichever team wins the regular season title earns the right to host the conference semifinals and championship next month.
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