VMI lax breaks 14-game losing streak
With a thrilling overtime victory, the VMI lacrosse team logged its first victory of the 2012 season, doing so in thrilling overtime fashion. Junior attackman put away the winner just 52 seconds into the extra stanza at the Institute’s SprinTurf Field.
East’s sniper, his first of game, getting an assist from senior midfielder Keith Long, ended a 14-game losing streak. VMI’s last victory came one year ago, nearly to the day as the Keydets upended Presbyterian 15-9 on March 12, 2011 at home.
The game was a vengeance of sorts. The last time these two teams met two seasons ago, Wagner walked out of Lexington with an 8-7 overtime victory. The April 24, 2010 win still stands as the Seahawks’ last win.
Senior face-off specialist Stephen Robarge went 22-26 at the face-off X, but none were bigger than his 22nd, which came at the beginning of overtime. After winning the draw, Robarge moved to ball down field to Long, who eventually hit East for the game-winner.
But the overtime period would not have come without the efforts of Drew Leonard, who stuffed home the game-tying goal with just five seconds left in regulation to force the extra period. Once again, it was Long who came up big on the back end with the game-tying assist.
“What a grinding game,” said VMI head coach Brian Anken of his team’s victory. “I knew that was a good Wagner team. We’ve watched them play a couple of times this year and they’ve got some really good weapons that we had some problems with throughout the game, but I thought we made great adjustments.”
The overtime thriller, VMI’s first extra stanza contest since May 1, 2010, featured eight ties and eleven lead changes, including three ties in the fourth quarter.
Part of VMI’s success came from have eight different goal scorers on 12 total goals. Playing in his first game of the year after sitting out with an injury, sophomore attackman Mickey Hofmeister tallied the first hat trick of his career, posting three goals. Freshman Mike DeBlasio had a career-high tying three points on two goals and a dish. Leonard also capped his day with two goals, including the overtime –forcer.
VMI’s other five goal scorers were Long, East, Robarge, Andrew Nieminski and Bernie Mowbray. In the assist column, Long led the way with a pair, while DeBlasio, East, Hofmeister and Anderson Caldwell had one helper each.
“It was almost 80 degrees and we’re a team that likes to go deeper on the bench than most teams typically would and we try and do that any time we can,” Anken said in regards to his eight different scorers. “Today was perhaps one of the best showings of unselfishness on offense that we’ve, with eight different goal scorers.
Wagner’s scoring was paced by a trio of hat tricks from Colin O’Rourke, Mike Hurley and Nick DePhillips. Cory Santor and Brian Faughnan each chipped in one marker. Of Wagner’s 11 goals, five were assisted, with O’Rourke capping a five-point day with two helpers. Dustin Doty, Mike Hurley and Cory Santor had one apiece.
Face-offs were a dominating stat for VMI during the game where Robarge put together one of his top career games. The last time Robarge won 20-plus draws was in the 2011 season finale when he went 20-29. Against Wagner, Robarge only lost four draws and went 22-26.
In the clearing and riding aspect of the game, VMI gained its offensive zone on 10 of its 11 tries. But more impressively, held Wagner to just 15 successful clears against 23 tries.
VMI (1-6) also won the groundball battle, grabbing 37 grounders to the Seahawks’ 15. The Keydets’ efforts were led by the face-off unit where Robarge hoovered a season-high 13 while wingman Chris Rossie collected six. The unit’s other wing man, Long, grabbed three as Kyle Hofstetter grabbed up five.
Between the pipes, junior keeper J Rice got his first career win, making six saves in the game. Opposite him, Nicholas Gibaldi suffered his sixth loss of the season, but turned in an outstanding effort with 19 saves.
VMI jumped out to an early 2-0 lead as Hofmeister scored his first goal since the second to last game of 2011. Deblasio had a hand in the Keydets’ first two goals as he assisted Hofmeister and then finished a goal of his own with East on pass.
But the Seahawks locked things up early in the second quarter with back-to-back goals from DePhillips. But Long broke the tie, which was short lived as Wagner charged downfield and scored just over a minute later, tying the game at 3-3.
Wagner (0-6) broke the knot and took a narrow4-3 lead. Nieminski retied the game for a third time as he pushed home a shot with 1:23 left in the first half. VMI grabbed its first halftime lead of the season as Mowbray, a native of near-by Charlottesville, Va., scored his first of the year with only seven seconds on the clock. VMI took a 5-4 lead into the break.
The Seahawks came out in the second half guns blazing and Hurley and O’Rourke recaptured the lead, 6-5 for Wagner. DeBlasio once again tied things at 6-6 but O’Rourke broke the stalemate a minute and a half later.
VMI grabbed its first lead since the start of the second half, ringing up three straight goals from Leonard, Hofmeister and Robarge, who scored just 12 seconds after Hofmeister on the ensuing face-off.
Finding itself down 9-7 at the end of the third, Wagner rallied and snagged a 10-9 lead after three straight goals of its own. VMI’s Hofmeister tied things at 10-10 with just under six seconds left on the clock. O’Rourke wrested control from the Keydets with 4:23 left in regulation, a lead which Wagner held until Leonard buried his game-tying marker with five seconds left.
The Seahawks held the ball going into the final two minutes of the game but were restricted to the restraining box, as they had the lead. VMI’s pressure defense took advantage of this and forced Wagner into one if its 16 turnovers before heading down field and scoring the tying goal.
VMI will return to the SprinTurf Field, located behind Foster Stadium, on Saturday when the Keydets look to build off of momentum and take on Siena College in the first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference clash of the season. Game time is set for 1 p.m.