The Lafayette men’s lacrosse team kicked off their spring season with a nail-biter last Saturday, dropping a close contest to the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), 13-12.
On Wednesday, the Leopards lost another close game by a similar score, this time a 13-11 defeat at the hands of Fairfield University. Both games were out of conference, but Patriot League play starts this weekend.
The Leopards came out hot on Saturday, jumping out to an early 4-2 lead at Fisher Stadium. Freshman attacker Peter Lehman wasted no time finding the back of the net in his collegiate debut, scoring the game’s first goal and registering a hat trick in the first half alone. Sophomore midfielder Macklin Fitzpatrick scored the other Lafayette goal in the opening stretch.
The two-point advantage did not last long as VMI responded with four unanswered goals and flipped the script for a 6-4 advantage. Freshman attacker Carter Cecil scored with less than a minute remaining in the first half, but the Kangaroos entered halftime with a 6-5 lead.
Lafayette and VMI traded blows throughout the third quarter, with each team scoring twice. Freshman attackers Kalman Kraham and Charlie Cunniffe scored once apiece, and the Leopards headed into the fourth quarter trailing 8-7.
The Kangaroos scored four of the first six goals in the fourth quarter to open up a 12-9 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the game. The Leopards nearly came all the way back, scoring three of the game’s final four goals in the last three minutes, but could not net the game-tying goal.
Cunniffe scored the first two goals of the fourth quarter, giving him a hat trick of both goals and assists on the afternoon. Cecil and junior midfielder Cole Dutton each scored late in the fourth quarter but it was too little, too late for the Leopards.
“In lacrosse, there are ebbs and flows to a game and we had a lot of momentum towards the end of the game,” Lehman said. “Unfortunately, we just ran out of time. Credit to the rest of our team—everyone battled until the last whistle, which is a testament to the competition factor that is a part of our culture.”
Junior goalie Ryan Ness made 14 saves in the loss despite getting battered by 44 shots. The Leopards as a whole struggled statistically against VMI, as they were outshot 44-30 and had nine fewer shots on goal. Lafayette also committed four more turnovers than the Kangaroos (19-15) and picked up fewer ground balls (43-37).
The youth movement was in full effect on Saturday for the Leopards, as three freshmen attackers (Cecil, Cunniffe and Lehman) combined for 14 points on eight goals and six assists. Cunniffe scored three goals and three assists, Lehman recorded his own hat trick and added an assist and Cecil notched two goals and two assists to round out the young trio.
Cunniffe was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week for his performance against VMI.
“My individual performance against VMI was a direct result of my unselfish teammates, coaches, and the culture we have built and are continuing to build as a program,” Cunniffe said.
Against Fairfield on Wednesday, Cunniffe picked up right where he left off with an unassisted goal just six minutes into the game. Tallies by Kraham and Dutton kept the score tied at three as the first quarter ended.
Lafayette opened up the second quarter with goals by Cunniffe and Lehman, but the Stags went on a three-goal run to end the frame, and the half, with an 8-5 advantage.
The Leopards clawed back in the third quarter and narrowed the deficit by one. Fitzpatrick and Cecil each found the back of the net, and freshman midfielder John Mathes scored a pair of goals. Lafayette trailed 10-9 heading into the fourth quarter.
Kalman and Cecil scored a goal apiece in the fourth, but Fairfield was able to maintain a narrow advantage en route to the 13-11 win. The Leopards were outshot 46-41 and trailed in ground balls (34-31) and faceoffs (19-8). Both teams had 15 turnovers.
Next up for the Leopards is the Patriot League opener against Loyola Maryland tomorrow at 2 p.m. in Baltimore.