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New London — Bright lights, big game.
Let's just say the Mitchell College men's lacrosse team loves the spotlight.
The highly-motivated Mariners never trailed, beating SUNY-Cobleskill, 11-7, Wednesday on the New London High School turf. It was the program's first home night game.
"We came out hard," junior Shane Sullivan said. "We wanted to win. We were very fired up."
Sullivan, one of six Waterford High School graduates on the roster that also has players from Fitch, East Lyme and St. Bernard, made a nice living in the crease, scoring four goals.
Jordan Cook, a sophomore from Groton, took his share of hard knocks during dashes into the heart of the defense and fired in three goals. Junior Demetre Lyras added two goals and an assist.
When the game ended, the Mariners swarmed junior goalie Peter Eshenfelder, a former Lancer.
"It was a good team win," Eshenfelder said. "Everyone was waiting for this game all week and we all showed up. It's the toughest team left on our schedule. We all came to play."
Mitchell, 6-2 overall, has only four games left in the regular season. But there's still plenty to play for, as the Mariners are in great position to win the first New England Collegiate Conference men's lacrosse regular season title, needing only to beat Daniel Webster on April 6.
"We're feeling confident going into the game," Sullivan said. "That's the goal -- win the conference And beyond that, getting a bid into the ECAC touranment."
The Mariners showed a killer instinct on Wednesday. They quickly answered any time Cobleskill (2-1) attempted a comeback.
Stationed in the crease, Sullivan scored 19 seconds after Cobleskill cut the gap to 6-4 in the third quarter.
"I like to go in, take the hits and get the goals," Sullivan said.
In the fourth quarter, Lyras made a nice solo run to score 36 seconds after Cobleskill closed to within 9-6 with 4:42 remaining.
Eshenfelder, who made 12 saves, and his fellow defenders sealed off the goal area to close out the game.
Third-year coach Derek Marks, a former two-sport athlete at East Lyme, has the program on the rise. He's improved the team's overall skill level and stocked the roster with local talent and also recruited quality out-of-state players.
"Every year we're bringing in some more talented guys and trying to add depth..." Marks said. "We've got a great group of solid contributors, offensively and defensively. Just getting the depth at every position, that's tough."
The junior class already has tasted success.
Two years ago, the Mariners won a school record nine games and earned their first postseason bid, reaching the ECAC Division III semifinals.
Now they're back in the running for another postseason bid.
"We lost a game here at home in overtime (to Husson) that we should have won," Marks said. "That's something we hope that doesn't haunt us at the end of the year. We definitely think the month of April should be kind for us in our schedule and we should get some more wins."