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CA News 2024

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Men’s lacrosse crowned NESCAC champions, defeating Middlebury 9-7 in title game

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – A storybook season reached its climax Sunday, when the screams of the countdown from the 10 seconds remaining on the clock could be heard throughout downtown Middletown. For the hundreds of hungry supporters in attendance, they made sure to let the Wesleyan campus know that their Cardinals had been crowned the 2024 NESCAC Champions.

In a classic matchup between two legendary programs, the 10e In the all-time postseason meeting (sixth time in the NESCAC Championship game) featuring Wesleyan and Middlebury, the two-seed Cardinals (15-3) ultimately prevailed over the four-seed Panthers (10-8) with a final score of 9-7 .

The victory caps a miraculous turnaround season for the Cardinals, who missed the NESCAC Tournament for the second time in team history in 2023. Fast forward to the 2024 season, where the Cardinals went 12-3 in the regular season and 8-2 in the regular season. league play and earned the runner-up spot for the NESCAC tournament, where Wesleyan rolled past Trinity, Hamilton and Middlebury en route to its third NESCAC title in team history (2005, 2017, 2024).

Possessing a Top 10 scoring offense, scoring goals was the Cardinals’ calling card for much of the campaign, but it was defense that carried Wesleyan to both NESCAC Championship weekend victories. One day removed from a 12-6 win over Hamilton in the semifinals and facing a Middlebury team that had just scored 17 goals in a win over Bowdoin in the semifinals, the Cardinals smothered the Panther offense all afternoon. Highlighted by a career-high 17-save performance of Conor Selfridge ’26 and a monster performance Joe Hurton ’27 (four ground balls, four caused turnovers), held Wesleyan Middlebury to just two goals in the second half and scoreless for more than 25 minutes en route to the two-goal victory.

That defense helped overcome a slow start for the Wesleyan offense, as Selfridge made saves on four of the first five Middlebury shots on goal in the game. Selfridge kept the deficit to a one-goal margin until the Wesleyan offense came alive with two goals in 1:20. Ben Brands ’26 benefited from a sudden shift to zone defense after Middlebury’s aggressive man-to-man coverage wreaked havoc in the early stages, scoring his 53rd goal of the season 9:50 into the game. Alex Moynihan ’24 unleashed a shot from distance that found the back of the net 1:20 later, giving Wesleyan their first lead of the game.

Middlebury’s Will Ford answered without help, but the Cardinals won the ensuing matchup and Justin Hazard ’23 cleared a loose ball up front with a goal with just nine seconds left in the stanza, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

Thirty seconds after hitting the post, Burns made the most of a second crack at goal by hitting the back of the net from close range, making it 4-2 Wesleyan early in the second quarter.

After scoring just one goal in a span of more than 18 minutes, Middlebury flipped the script with a flurry of three goals in just 1:30 of action. Russell Thorndike scored consecutive goals in the series before Middlebury’s face-off specialist William Monroe scored his first goal of the season to give the Panthers a 5–4 lead midway through the second.

Despite that goal, Selfridge made timely saves to keep the deficit at one, making three stops in a span of 1:34 before a crucial sequence late in the quarter put Wesleyan ahead at halftime. CK Giancola ’24 shook free of a defender and Jack Raba ’23 found him with the assist. Then in the final seconds, after both sides had whistled for penalties, DJ Dixon ’24 sprinted from midfield toward Cage and fired a rocket into the top right corner for a goal that sent Wesleyan into halftime with a 6-5 lead.

During a crucial sequence in the third quarter, Wesleyan whistled for a pair of penalties on the same play, giving Middlebury a 6-on-4 man-up advantage. Riding that two-player advantage, Middlebury attempted three shots, the third of which was smothered by Selfridge as Wesleyan held the Panthers at bay to maintain the lead.

The defensive slugfest continued in the second half, with Giancola scoring the first goal of the third quarter after 6:17 had passed in the frame. Giancola’s long shot ended up in the top left corner of the cage. After another eight minutes passed without any goals, some late quarter magic again benefited the Cardinals when Dixon slid a pass to his classmate Giancola, who ripped a goal past Hayden Kern to put Wesleayn up 8-5 after three.

The home faithful began to see the finish line as Giancola quickly rifled home a shot as his fourth goal of the day gave the Cardinals their largest lead of the game, 9-5 with 13:59 to go.

John McCarthy scored just over two minutes later to snap a 5-0 Wesleyan scoring streak over three quarters, but the combination of Selfridge (three saves in the final eleven+ minutes) and Hurton (two caused turnovers in the last eleven minutes). that period) sealed the title win for the Cardinals.

Selfridge had the game of his life in the championship game, posting a career-high 17 saves, while the sophomore made at least four saves in all four quarters, improving to 9-1 for the season. His .708 save percentage this afternoon is another career high, while the sophomore has posted a save percentage of at least .500 in all but two of his 10 starts this season.

Giancola completed an epic post-season goal streak as the senior midfielder scored four more goals, accounting for nearly half of the Cardinals’ tally in the title game. After totaling eight goals against Trinity (also a team and NESCAC tournament record) and four against Hamilton, Giancola led the Cardinals with 16 scores in the title-winning three-game series.

Raba continued to quarterback the offense and dished out three more assists to bring his total to 51 assists in 16 games played in 2024. That’s the highest single-season total by a Cardinal since Carter Hawthorne ’19 posted a team single-season record of 66 .back in 2018.

Burns posted two goals and one assist and went along with five ground balls. The sophomore has scored in all 18 games this season and is tied with Giancola for the team lead with 54.

The face-off tandem of Tyler Campbell ’25 (7-for-10) and Jackson Tinari ’26 (6-for-9) combined to give Wesleyan a sizable 13-6 lead for the game.

The Cardinals earn the NESCAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament and are on the verge of making their ninth all-time appearance. Wesleyan made history in 2018, becoming the first team in school history to win an NCAA championship. This will be the Cardinals’ fifth NCAA tournament appearance since 2017, having qualified for the national postseason in five of the past six traditional (not COVID-affected) seasons.