Late rally falls short for Coast Guard in NEWMAC showdown with Springfield
New London — Gone are the days the Coast Guard Academy men's lacrosse team can surprise a conference opponent.
In just their fourth season as a Division III program, the Bears have become a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference contender.
NEWMAC power Springfield got the message in last season's meeting, losing for the first time in the series.
It was a different story on Wednesday night as Coast Guard suffered an 11-8 defeat at Cadet Memorial Field. The highly-motivated Pride delivered a statement-making performance.
"They're skilled and a very strong group of kids," CGA coach Ray LaForte said. "We're not sneaking up on anybody anymore. Those days are over.
"We're legit. We just got their best. They earmarked this game for a year. I told my guys that Springfield College is desperate group and they don't want to lose to us twice in a row. That would be a real swing in our conference."
There's still work to do for the Bears to qualify for the conference tournament for the first time.
A chance at an important win slipped away in the fourth quarter. The Pride scored four straight goals to break 6-6 tie.
"You need to play the complete 60 minutes," said sophomore Riley McNulty. "Coach always tells us about grit. We've got to come out with grit for the entire 60 minutes."
Coast Guard (10-3, 3-1) remains in great position with three conference games remaining, sitting in a four-way tie for second place with Springfield (8-5, 3-1), MIT (7-5, 3-1) and Clark (8-4, 3-1). The Bears still have to play league leader Babson (7-5, 4-0).
One more win and the Bears will set a program record for victories in the season. They had hoped to reach that milestone on Wednesday.
Springfield established a physical presence early, delivering several hard checks and scoring the game's first two goals.
The Bears chased the game from there. They temporarily grabbed the momentum and had their only lead, 4-3, at intermission.
McNulty, the NEWMAC's leading point scorer, ignited the attack by scoring twice for his team-leading 35th and 36th goals this season. Freshman Will Iorio scored a beauty, fighting through a pair of defenders before scoring from the door-step. And senior Matt Huemme also scored in the second quarter.
With the score deadlocked at 6-6 entering the fourth quarter, Springfield began to dominate possession, scoring four straight goals in just over a four-minute span.
A few mistakes cost the Bears.
Springfield's Lucas Habich (three goals) cut through the middle unmarked, collected a pass and fired it home for the go-ahead goal. Tanner Garitta cashed in a Coast Guard turnover to make it 8-6. A penalty led to Jack Vail's man-advantage goal for Springfield and Habich scored again for four-goal edge.
"We didn't get a possession in that stretch," LaForte said. "Our defense was under a lot of pressure. ... We got hit by a run and we just couldn't answer."
The Bears tried to make a late comeback as junior Anthony Wyler scored two goals to cut the gap to two. A turnover set up Springfield's final tally.
Goalie Trey Johnson kept the Bears close by making several terrific saves and had 10 stops overall. Junior Ian Logan had two goals.
Vail finished with three goals and three assists for Springfield.
The Bears already are looking forward to a rematch with Springfield. That could happen in the conference tournament.
"There's a few little mistakes that we have to clean up," McNulty said. "But we'll see them again. That's what we're most excited about."
Prior to Wednesday, Coast Guard's only losses came against top 20 competition in Ithaca College and Connecticut College.
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