The Binghamton University men’s lacrosse team made amends for a 13-4 blowout loss to No. 6 Cornell by winning its first game of the season, an 11-7 victory at Canisius.
The Bearcats got off to their usual quick start, jumping out to a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter. But in a young season that has been characterized by relinquishing leads at different points in games, the Bearcats gave a complete effort on Saturday, holding the lead from start to finish to capture their first win of the year. Team captain and senior attack David Raleigh broke out with four goals, but according to Binghamton head coach Ed Stephenson, it was the timeliness of those goals in addition to the number that made Raleigh’s performance so crucial to his team’s effort.
“Three times in the game, when they got within a goal, David scored a goal to put us up by two, so those were three huge goals for us in winning the game,” Stephenson said.
The coach spoke equally as highly about the team’s other captain, senior midfielder Frank Donlon, whose contributions, according to Stephenson, were not accurately reflected in the stat sheet.
“Frank got two huge goals for us and, combined with Raleigh, they did something that this young team has needed and they showed us how to do it,” he said. “They played with intensity, intensity that I hadn’t seen until this game. They played really, really smart throughout the game, they played tough and really did the little things that at this level you need to do in order to win games.”
One of the younger players that figures to be a beneficiary of the trickle-down effect of the newfound focus for detail and understanding displayed by the seniors is sophomore attack Matt Springer. Springer scored two more goals on Saturday to bring his total to a team-leading nine, but according to Stephenson, he and his fellow youngsters need even more than that for this team to have continued success.
“The young guys need to recognize that little things win games, the mental things win games,” Stephenson said. “Recognizing when the team has a substitutions advantage, identifying how to gain an advantage, thinking ahead, all the little things. There are so many intricacies of the game, and this season, we haven’t really shown a great IQ for them as a young team. Yesterday, Raleigh and Donlon showed us how to play with that field IQ.”
But the week wasn’t full of positives for Binghamton. On Tuesday, the Bearcats hosted lacrosse powerhouse Cornell University in their home opener, and the game wasn’t as close as the nine-goal differential suggested. The All-American-laden Cornell squad marched into the Bearcats Sports Complex and put on a show, erupting to a 13-0 halftime lead behind the stellar play of All-American junior attack Rob Pannell. Springer was able to record a point to extend his point streak to 17 games, recording an assist with 58 seconds left.
About midway through the first quarter, in pursuit of a loose ball around midfield, Raleigh was caught with his head down when All-American Big Red defenseman Max Feely laid him out with a bone-jarring hit. The collision, from the coach’s perspective, was representative of the team’s play for that entire game.
“That hit was one of the things that we’re really trying to get the guys to understand,” Stephenson said. “That hit would not have happened had we executed the little things. As soon as our young attackmen recognize we were going to scoop that ball up, they had to charge down to our offensive end to help out David. By them not moving and reacting to the situation that was imminent, what could have been a great scoring opportunity turns into a lost ball. And that’s just what happened throughout the game. Mentally, we were just a step behind Cornell.”
Stephenson and the Bearcats used the Cornell game as a valuable learning experience in the mental aspects of the game.
“That’s where I challenged our guys, mentally, and that’s where guys like Donlon and Raleigh responded for us, Springer as well,” Stephenson said. “So [the win over Canisius] was a huge day for us, to get that win and get those looks and plays that showed that recognition.”
One more item that the team drew from the loss at Cornell was more clarity in its goaltender situation. Going into the year, there was a position battle between the pipes, involving junior Jordan Marra and sophomore Kraig Heston. Marra won out in drawing the opening day start. He remained in the net for all the team’s minutes until the first quarter performance against Cornell in which he gave up eight goals. Given the game situation, Marra was pulled in favor of Heston, and Heston made the most of his opportunity. After Heston held Cornell to only five goals over the last 47 minutes of the game, Stephenson went back to Heston against Canisius and was handsomely rewarded.
“He played outstanding. Sometimes, you just need a little spark, and Heston really provided that spark, starting in that Cornell game, and continuing into this game as well,” Stephenson said. “He played great and made some huge saves to secure the win for us.”
The Bearcats look to win their first home game of the season today when they host the Hobart Statesmen. The match is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.